F-22A Raptor: the f*** off factor

By skepticlawyer

Every now and again an issue bubbles along just under the radar of public debate. Sometimes it pops its head up for air, generating the occasional MSM opinion piece, but most of the time argument is confined to aficionados battling it out in the trade press.

Such an issue is the debate over the future shape, acquisitions and direction of Australia’s Air Force. Most Catallaxy readers would know that in 2002 Defence committed the RAAF to the F-35, better known as the Joint Strike Fighter, or JSF, recently named the Lightning II. Most readers would probably also know that the JSF is still in development, and that the closest any Australian has come to flying it is taking the JSF simulator for a spin in March last year. Defence Force Chief, Air Marshall Angus Houston, has penned paeans to the JSF, to the point where he’s staked his reputation on it. The JSF will be stealthy, the JSF will have capabilities far beyond any comparable aircraft. Most of all, the JSF will be a suitable replacement for the F-111, affectionately known in Air Force circles as ‘the Pig’.

What many readers won’t know is that a fierce argument over the JSF’s suitability for Australia’s long-term air power needs has been boiling away in the pages of the Australian Financial Review, Defence Today, and previously Australian Aviation and Heads Up Magazines. Defence has its keen supporters, but a growing chorus of critics – many of them distinguished strategists, test pilots and retired Air Force personnel – argue that Defence has made a dud choice, and that the time to back out is now, before Australia’s commitment to the JSF becomes irrevocable.

Strategist Dr Carlo Kopp, former flight test engineer Peter Goon, retired Air Cdre E J Bushell AM, retired test pilots Group Captains R G Green and M J Cottee, and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute are among Defence’s critics. They point out that the JSF is a short range aircraft, and in certain respects is actually more limited than the ‘Pig’, one of the two aircraft it is purporting to replace. Dr Dennis Jensen, a physicist and former analyist with DSTO who is now a coalition MP isn’t buying Defence’s line either.

[It’s] a good aircraft but not the right one for our region. Our geography means we need long-range capability and [the F-35] doesn’t give it to us.

Jensen and Kopp also point out that since 1991, China has engaged in the largest sustained arms buying spree since the Soviet surge of the late 1970s and 1980s, buying out what amounts to the crown jewels of the Russian technology base. At the top of China’s focus has been the aim to build up a fleet of long range air superiority fighters second only to the US Air Force fleet of F-15C/E. India has gone down a similar path, and in the 2001 Cope India exercise flown between the latest US Air Force F-15C variant and Indian Su-30s, the Indians, as predicted, matched or outperformed the American F-15Cs. The F-15 is larger, more powerful and more agile than the F/A-18 or the JSF.

For many years, the F-111 provided what Kopp and Goon refer to rather inelegantly as the ‘f*** off factor’. It could fly further, faster and with a bigger payload. It was almost infinitely upgradeable. Kopp and Goon also argue that the F-111 need not be written off so hastily, and have come up with a range of detailed, cost effective ways to keep it in the air.

Their core recommendation, however, is for Australia to purchase the F-111’s successor, the F-22A Raptor. As much as he doesn’t like to give ground, even then Air Marshal Houston conceded that the F-22

Will be the most outstanding fighter aircraft ever built … Every fighter pilot in the Air Force would dearly love to fly it.


The F-22A in action

This amazing plane has supersonic cruise, allowing it to fly at up to 50,000 feet at prolonged and extraordinary speed, placing it out of reach of surface-to-air missiles, untouchable in air-to-air combat and able to release satellite-guided “smart” bombs and missiles at undetectable range. Its stealth – ability to evade radar detection – is unparalleled and will not be matched by the JSF. To top it off, the F-22 is already in service. As more are built its unit cost is coming down, while the JSF is facing a budget blowout and Congressional criticism for its radical design, deemed ‘dangerously unproven’.

The debate has inspired a parliamentary inquiry – the Inquiry into Australian Defence Force Regional Air Superiority, in which defence critics were prominent. Kopp and Goon have founded the Air Power Australia think tank, a central locus for detailed air warfare research material. MP Dennis Jensen has been working to catch Dr Nelson’s ear since his tenure as Defence Minister commenced. Kopp – an engineer, computer scientist and Monash Asia Institute Fellow as well as a former stunt pilot – seems to write much of the Australian Financial Review’s Defence Specials these days.

The issue is a large one. John Howard has positioned Australia regionally as a somewhat bellicose player, but our capability in the crucial area of air power is slipping. Even libertarians concede that defence is one thing the state has to get right.

What gives?

UPDATE: Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss, ret has added his thoughts on this topic in the latest Defence Industry Daily.


  1. GMB
    Posted November 2, 2006 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    “Of course not, you dope. How on earth can you possibly compare Australia with the USSR?”

    You fucking idiot.

    Can someone take some time out and explain to this DOPE what an EXAMPLE is??

    Right. Because you are such a fucking idiot. And you ignored the PRINCIPLE of what I said I’m having to repost:

    Now you mean to say that the possession of these had NO BEARING on the international system on the following grounds…… THEY NEVER USED THEM!!!.”

    On what basis CAN I NOT compare Australia to the Soviet Union when the comparison in question is relevant.

    We aren’t talking, in this example, about About Australia or the Soviet Union PER SE (you fucking moron).

    We are trying to point out for the seriously dishonest and idiotic that whether you expect to actually use the weaponry or not is NOT THE FUCKING POINT YOU DUMB SHIT.

    Clearly this HAS TO BE THE CASE YOU SIMPLE FUCKWIT when the whole point of your defense policy is to avoid catastrophic war.

    Do you think in your deepest wells of ignorance that I want us focused on Chins BECAUSE I WANT CHINA TO MAKE DIRECT WAR ON US????

    Was THAT your understanding.

    Of course not.

    We concentrate on the defense against China in order to stop a war with China happening…… And not have to kneel down either.

    So we buy the weapons ON THE BASIS THAT if we are successful in our policy in several decades time we will look back.

    And the smart people will say:

    “Isn’t it terrific. Our policy worked. We were supreme in the air to the far side of Indonesia. And no-one made us prove it in battle”

    And the really stupid bastards will say:

    “Look at all the money we spentt on buying and maintaining this awesome capability. AND WE DIDN’T EVEN USE IT. ….. We were clearly delusional. These Raptors were the most monumental flying fucking white elephants in Australian history.”



    Do you at least understand the concept?

    It would be helpful if you at least proved somehow that THE CONCEPT OF IT hasn’t gone over your simple low-flying little-mind.

  2. GMB
    Posted November 2, 2006 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    “Dopey, Australia on its own can’t deter shit.”

    1. My oath we can.

    2. Who said we were on our own you complete fuckwit? China is surrounded.

  3. fatfingers
    Posted November 2, 2006 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    “Can someone take some time out and explain to this DOPE what an EXAMPLE is??”

    You nincompoop. Of course it was an example, just an atrocious one. You can’t have interchangeable military strategies between countries, it doesn’t work that way. Deterrence is reasonable and necessary for some, but not others. Some face threats, others don’t. Some are engaged in a worldwide struggle for hegemony with another superpower, and others aren’t. So your example was IRRELEVANT!

    Getting to your actual point buried beneath the abuse, that the use of weapons is not all you have to think about when buying the weapons – it all depends on the country in question’s situation. See above.

    “when the whole point of your defense policy is to avoid catastrophic war.”

    Catastrophic war with who, dopey? China (the only ones physically capable) are not going to invade, not because we buy some planes, and not because of any possible weapons we buy unless we devote a huge chunk of the budget to that end, but because it would be stupid and pointless.

    “My oath we can.”

    Yeah, we can whup Papua’s army no sweat.

    “Who said we were on our own ”

    That’s the point, dopey! We are not, so we don’t need to act as if we are! Is this getting through to you yet?

  4. GMB
    Posted November 2, 2006 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    No you are being an idiot and a liar.

    “You can’t have interchangeable military strategies between countries…”

    When did I say you could you commie fucking liar?

    In fact I didn’t ever say anything like that did I you third-rail house-slave-wannabe.

    I never did did I?

    So you are just lying.

    “Catastrophic war with who, dopey? China (the only ones physically capable) are not going to invade, not because we buy some planes, and not because of any possible weapons we buy unless we devote a huge chunk of the budget to that end, but because it would be stupid and pointless.”

    Well thats alright then. Oh happy days. So in your view then…. it doesn’t matter what we do.


    And peoples actions are in no way contingent on our own.

    We simply don’t need to spend money on defense.

    Is that your view.

    What the fuck is it you are claiming you commie filth?

  5. GMB
    Posted November 2, 2006 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Oh Happy happy days.

    fatfingers has found out that we don’t even require defense spending at all. In fact it was all just senseless behaviour by generations of terrible right-wingers.

    Well its so nice you put that one to rest………(shit-for-brains?)

    Hey fuckhead.

    Under YOUR theory…… explain the existence of war?

  6. fatfingers
    Posted November 2, 2006 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    “In your view WE DON’T FACE A DEFENSE COMMITTMENT. fatfingers has found out that we don’t even require defense spending at all. We simply don’t need to spend money on defense.”

    Bird, you are an outright liar. Or you are an outright idiot. Let’s peruse WHAT I ACTUALLY SAID:

    “Having air power is a must, but we should be modeling it on the army – small, effective, reliable and flexible.”

    “Boots on the ground are where the real work happens after the fireworks of air strikes and missiles, and where our limited resources should be targeted.”

    “I am NOT saying we don’t need armed forces. I’m NOT saying we shouldn’t have fighters, bombers, missiles, drones”

    “we really need more infantry. These new soldiers will need air support, so of course let’s buy air support.”

    GMB, you have been shown for what you are – a big fat liar. You must go through your asbestos pants colelction at a fearsome rate.

    I want a retraction, dopey. In your very next post on this thread. Otherwise don’t bother coming back.

  7. Jason Soon
    Posted November 2, 2006 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    I agree Graeme. You owe fatty an apology.

  8. Posted November 2, 2006 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Nevertheless, fatty still seems to be arguing that big air power is unnecessary because a) we’re never going to fight – or be able to fight – a nation-on-nation war by ourselves anyway and b) the opportunity cost of big air power is a less formidable infantry and a diminished capacity to project traditional policing and mop-up capability.

    I simply repeat the argument I’ve presented above. Namely, that the projection of regional power, will and commitment that would be flagged by a renewed big air power policy would BOLSTER our credentials and gravitas in the region, thus affirming – not diminishing – our boots-on-the-ground role. Opportunity cost arguments can always be mocked up – more of x could be less of y – but I think the weight of opportunity cost is offset by the dual strategy I’ve outlined.

    Nor, as I’ve said, does a dualistic perspective mean that Australian Raptorism is merely symbolic; in the event of a big war, there is absolutely no good reason why Australia should not play an important airforce role; that hypothetical war could be large enough to include sub-theatres of operation wherein the Americans would appreciate it if we could do some of the heavy lifting (and bombing) for ourselves.

  9. fatfingers
    Posted November 2, 2006 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    CL, you are a breath of fresh air in this Bird-heavy debate. I recognise your argument, and I think it has merit. I still think you overstate the bolstering effect. But overall you make a good case.

  10. Posted November 2, 2006 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    My pleasure, fatty. 😉

  11. GMB
    Posted November 3, 2006 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    ““Having air power is a must, but we should be modeling it on the army – small, effective, reliable and flexible.”

    But why? If no-one will ever invade us under any circumstance…. in your idiots point of view…. then why have an airforce.

    If we are magically immune from Chi-Com intimidation, though we are meeklky putting up with their spies, why have an airforce in the first place.

    Now you are absolutely clear that we face no danger from China?

    Presumably that goes for anyone else too.

    So if you believe that why bother with an airforce.

    It doesn’t matter what you SAY fatfingers. You are an idiot and you contradictt yourself with every other step.

  12. GMB
    Posted November 3, 2006 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    ““Having air power is a must, but we should be modeling it on the army – small, effective, reliable and flexible.”

    You idiot?

    How the fuck does this tie up with the idea that we face no threat whatsoever from China or (presumably) from anyone else?

    It doesn’t matter what you say if none of your idiocy hangs together.

    You have said this yes. But elsewhere you’ve implied something else.

    Its the fact that you contradict yourself all the time that makes you an idiot.

    Why do we need airpower if no-one would invade us?

    CL. You have to get away from this symbolism and prestige talk. I mean thats all true. But its misleading. Politicians have to talk like that but we don’t.

  13. GMB
    Posted November 3, 2006 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    “I agree Graeme. You owe fatty an apology.”

    Don’t be ridiculous Jason.

    He claims we don’t face any chance of an invasion from China or anyone else regardless of what we do.

    Ergo he implies we don’t need any sort of capable airforce.

    It doesn’t matter WHAT he says elsewhere.

    Elsewhere he contradicts himself. So what? That does not speak in his favour.

    Now if we need an airforce presumably we have an authentic defense-need and therefore we need a good airforce.

    C.L will you stop this silly prestige talk. Its not that you are wrong exactly. But you are telling people that its all some sort of ego thing. Rather then a matter of survival.

  14. GMB
    Posted November 3, 2006 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    Sorry for the repetition. For some reason the appearance of my posts was held over.

  15. Posted December 31, 2006 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Latest related pubs which may be of considerable interest:


    A Happy New Year to all!

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