Curioser and Curioser, said Alice

By skepticlawyer

Catallaxy commenter Dr Carlo Kopp had an interesting piece in yesterday’s Age. It appears Brendan Nelson is telling porky pies about the F22A Raptor, and Australia’s ability to acquire the aircraft. Money quote:

At this point the minister’s claims become bizarre. A news release issued the same day contained the statement that ‘the Government has not asked the United States for access to the F-22 Raptor’, thereby confirming that the minister had not requested that the LOEXCOM process be performed to establish whether export is permitted. Another incongruity is that Gordon England, known as an outspoken advocate of the Joint Strike Fighter, is not the party responsible for managing this process. This task falls to the US Air Force.

The minister thus used a letter from a party who is not authorised to decide on export to argue that export of the F-22 to Australia is not permitted. This while the formal US process for export approval has not been completed.

Unless the minister can present good reasons why Australia would fail the LOEXCOM assessment, this looks much like speculation presented as fact. Is this a diversion to shift attention away from criticism aimed at the proposed Joint Strike Fighter and F/A-18F Super Hornet purchases by numerous experts?

What the minister did not disclose is that during the 1999-2001 period, the US did initiate the F-22 LOEXCOM protocol for its trusted ally Australia, but our Defence bureaucrats brought it to an abrupt halt after they sold the Joint Strike Fighter idea to then minister Robert Hill. The first and most important stage of the assessment was completed, concluding that Australia presented no greater security risk than the US Air Force itself.

Since Defence never sought the findings of this assessment, these were not public knowledge until disclosed in Parliament in March last year.

The minister’s ill-considered statements produced much collateral damage to public confidence in our US alliance, judging from editorials, irate public feedback and media speculation. In turn, he has not aided his cabinet colleagues, the Prime Minister or the nation in the midst of a heated debate on the benefits of the US alliance.

What gives? And in an election year to boot?


  1. Posted February 21, 2007 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    More defence shenanigans…

  2. Posted February 21, 2007 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I agree that the letter was political.

    Suitably of export is for Congress to decide through legislation and the House put through a bill allowing the export of the F22 in mid last year. It seems that the bill was killed in a join house and senate committee in december. When I was digging around I found that apparently the Arms Control Act allows the DoD or DoS to stop an arms export as well.

    I dont doubt what is above, but the letter from Gordon England is not as simple as The Australian article I read last week made out.

    I have no doubt to the political nature of the letter as an ASPI policy paper on the F22/F35/SuperHornet came out on the 13th of September, so it is starting to go beyond Lib/Lab politics and is in the wider defence and think-tank community.

    It is a political liability as there will be a drop in projection and capability anyway with the JSF. That the F111 is being retired before there is a replacement for its power is a massive screw up of planning.

  3. GMB
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    This is just too upsetting.

    What is going on with you Brendan?

    Did some Chinaman show up in your bedroom late at night and make you an offer you couldn’t refuse?

    Has there been any statements by the opposition over this?

    The problem I have is a quite like Costello and Howard on a human level terrible thieves that they are.

    And I can’t stand Rudd.

    But I’m going to make some agonising internal adjustments if we can’t get this right.

    Because in the long run things like truth and national honour are the most important thing.

    But right now the most important thing is to start building up a fleet of these stealth fighters and the massive over-capacity of maintenance staff and airbourne refuelers to be able to keep them in the air indefinitely.


    Do Something!

    Do it now.

    And then if there is a leadership challenge you can credibly hold this one against Brendan.

    Move boy ’cause while it may seem like we are all working for you you ought not be THE MAN unless you think you are working for us.

  4. John Humphreys
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Sorry — I’m coming to this debate late so I have a few simple questions:

    * Does anybody have a cost breakdown of the F22 approach vis-a-vis the F35 approach, including estimated maintaince costs and the costs of any interim measures that must be taken?

    * What are the expected lifetimes of the planes? Will the 22 last longer?

    * How many would we be looking at buying? If the 22 is more expensive, are we looking at buying less? If so… are fewer 22s better than more 35s?

    * If the 22 is better than the 35 then why are the makers of 35 going ahead with their plane? It seems strange to spend billions for something that will come out in 10 years, but is already obsolete… it sounds like somebody investing money now in making a better type of VCR and ignoring the fact that people use DVDs now.

    * Are both the 22 & 35 better than anything our regional neighbours are likely to have?

    * Is the money for an upgraded plane already factored into to the current Defence budget?

    Thanks to anybody who can fill in some of the blanks…

  5. fatfingers
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    John, the JSF isn’t as good because it’s a jack of all trades, master of none. It is designed that way because the US wanted a unified model to replace the rest of its fighter, fighter/bomber forces. It also had to do the Harrier hover so the Brits would take it.

  6. GMB
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Fatfingers you bullshit-artist-house-slave-wannabe.

    You dumb Aunt Jemima.

    Nothing you said there was even a little bit true.

    You just lied outright.

    You are a career fucking Quisling.

    There can be no doubt about it.

    But I’d see you dead before I’d see you being rewarded for co-operation with any invader.

  7. GMB
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Actually Fatfingers.

    It appears that this one time you told the truth.

  8. Jason Soon
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    err Graeme, egg in your face. I think you should apologise to fatty for what you just said in #6

  9. GMB
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    No no not at all.

    That might negate what I was trying to acheive here.

    You see hidden within that two-post weaveworld is a secret message from me to fatfingers.

    One day he’ll understand that message and I hope its not too late.

    But its far too subtle for anyone else to comprehend..

    ..Because of the way I’ve sort of reverse-Rosetta-stoned it in.

  10. Posted February 21, 2007 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Responding to John Humphreys | February 21st, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    The questions you have asked at all answered on the APA website. Pls read the FAQ and also the Media page at:



  11. Scott
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for that link, Carlo, quite informative for us ground – based creatures.

  12. Posted February 21, 2007 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Responding to 11. Scott | February 21st, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    A pleasure. NB I do not get to do much flying recently, far too busy with analysis and Canberra politics, sadly. So I too am now a ‘ground based creature’, as much as I might enjoy flying supersonic aileron rolls otherwise!


  13. John Humphreys
    Posted February 23, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Carlo. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a spending timeline in that information.

    Also, isn’t there an option to get a mix… say 20 F-22s now and 40 JSFs later?

    Finally, what exactly are the benefits of the JSF? Can it travel further to devlier a larger payload? If it has no benefits then the decision is easy… but I presume there must be a trade-off somewhere.

  14. Posted February 23, 2007 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    The trade off was that it was cheaper. That has – in recent times – gone by the by.

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