The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is stepping up its lobbying efforts for a full order of 100 F-35 Lightning IIs, a number that has been officially endorsed but could easily be trimmed in a defense white paper due next year.
The chief of the air force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, strongly defends the choice of Lockheed Martin's F-35 as its next fighter, arguing that it will be part of an integrated airpower system and the country could not hope to find better.
He also endorses the Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning & Control Wedgetail and Airbus A330 tankers -- both on order for Australia but running late -- as the best equipment available.
The F-35 will be the best multirole fighter in the world, Binskin says, and will be able to beat advanced Russian fighters because it will be backed by other superior equipment and superior personnel.
"It will have the best radar, the best defensive system of any of those aircraft in the world," Binskin said in a speech reported by the Australian Associated Press.
"It will be supported by the best airborne early warning and control aircraft and the best tanker in the world and flown, maintained and supported by the best people in the world," he reportedly said. "I've got to tell you: the system ain't going to get any better than that."
The air force regards the Wedgetails as critical. As Boeing has suffered delays in developing the electronics, including an e-scan radar and advanced passive radio detection equipment, the service has said that it cannot afford to get less capability from them than it has specified - a clear sign that the six aircraft on order are at the center of its planning.
While holding F-35s in high esteem, the air force also says its studies show a need for a large quantity of them. "No matter how you model it, the modeling keeps coming back to 100," Binskin said.
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