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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 01:38 | SYDNEY
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 01:38 | SYDNEY

More pot-shots at Super Hornet

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10 December 2007 08:40

As an international policy blog, we will pass over the domestic subtext to Liberal backbencher Dennis Jensen's weekend intervention in the debate over the purchase of Super Hornets to replace our F-111s, though it is tempting to ask why Jensen didn't speak up when then-Defence minister Brendan Nelson announced the decision in December 2006.

The substance of Jensen's remarks is that Super Hornet is no match for regional rivals, particularly the Russian Su-27 series and its derivatives, used in our region by Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, India and China. But comments like '(t)he threats that are emerging in the region will effectively fly rings around it' suggest a slightly Biggles-ish view of modern air warfare. Even if the Sukhois shade the Super Hornet in comparative performance figures, that doesn't take into account things like training, maintenance and aerial support from reconnaisance and surveillance assets. Australia is superior to regional rivals in all these areas, except perhaps Singapore. Not to mention that in any major regional conflict, we'd be fighting with the Americans on our side.

Jensen's comments also imply that regional air superiority is in and of itself a good thing, and avoids the larger issue of what it is actually for. There may be sound strategic reasons why Australia should aim to maintain the best air warfare capabilities in the region, but just putting the debate in horserace form guide terms won't help us with that discussion.

Footnote: the ideological temper of our times is revealed in The Age's coverage of this story, with a weird and quite irrelevant aside about Jensen's global warming views:  

Dennis Jensen, a former defence scientist who is also a climate change sceptic, says the jets are slow and will be outclassed by Russian Sukhoi jets being bought by Australia's neighbours, including Indonesia and Malaysia.

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