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What's Plan B? Australia's air combat capability in the balance

By Andrew Davies

Australia’s long-held plans for the future air combat capability in the form of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are under pressure from rising costs and slipping schedules.

This paper assesses the current situation and concludes that there is still scope for a successful transition later this decade, but that margins are getting tight.

Cost pressures are strongest for the first batch of fourteen aircraft due to arrive from 2014, and must be close to maxing out the approved funding amount.

Schedule pressures are more acute later in the decade and what was a comfortable four year buffer between US and Australian service introduction is now closer to one.

Fall-back options are to extend the life of the Hornets (again) or buy Super Hornets (again).