Ipswich base for new fighters


AUSTRALIA'S new fighter aircraft ? $6 billion worth ? will be based at Amberley, it was announced yesterday. The Government will buy 24 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornet multi role aircraft as a stop-gap between the retirement of the F-111 fleet and the acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) from 2013. The purchase will maintain Australia's regional air superiority in the interim period. "The JSF is the most suitable aircraft for Australia's future combat and strike needs," Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said. "Australia remains fully committed to the JSF, but the Government is not prepared to accept any risk to air combat and strike capability during the transition to the JSF. "The F/A-18F Super Hornet is a highly capable, battle proven, multi role aircraft that is currently in service with the US Navy through to 2030. The next generation Block II Super Hornets will provide a more flexible operational capability than currently exists with the F-111. Member for Blair Cameron Thompson said the stop-gap nature of the purchase meant a huge boost to Amberley, with retraining necessary on two types of aircraft. "There's nothing going on in the air force that we aren't in the front line of at the moment," Mr Thompson said. "We've got a big workforce here and we need them to retrain for the new aircraft." He said it was a similar progression as happened when the Phantom was bought as an interim aircraft between the Canberra bombers and the F-111. With C-17 Globemasters, multi-role tanker transports and early warning aircraft all to be based at RAAF Amberley there was no doubt it was becoming Australia's super-base, he said. "For engineers this diversification of the RAAF provides an unparalleled series of career options," he said. Australian personnel will begin training on the Super Hornets in the US from 2009.

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