31 March 2009

Pimp My Black Hawk: Australian Edition

And here I thought I was in bad shape because the Black Hawks I've flown don't have windshield washers and still have "analog computers" in the nose. Apparently, Australia's $22-billion-a-year Defense Force can't field Black Hawk helicopters, fighter jets or warships. The big question is: will the Australians claim they need F-22s and F-35s or settle for simply upgrading their aircraft with the latest defense equipment?

From the Australian press:

As such, the ADF, which receives $22 billion in taxpayer funds each year, cannot conduct any high-level operations without substantial support from coalition forces such as the US.

Former Defence official Allan Behm said: "I think the public would be absolutely astonished and gobsmacked to think we spend so much on defence every year and yet we can't send much of it into harm's way because it won't work or it will not survive in a contest."

Defence experts say none of the RAAF's soon-to-be-retired F-111 strike bombers nor the majority of the 71 F/A-18 Hornet fighters can be used against modern air defences because they lack sufficient electronic protection.

[Note: The F-111 sucked even in the days of John Boyd and was retired from the US Air Force nearly 20 years ago. These guys get my respect for flying the F-111 for so long]

Similarly, they say the navy's eight Anzac frigates cannot be sent into a hotly contested war zone because of a lack of defensive weaponry, while the four other frigates, the FFGs, are still unavailable after a bungled and delayed $1.5 billion upgrade.

The army cannot deploy any of its 33 Blackhawk helicopters into warzones, including Afghanistan, because they remain vulnerable to shoulder-launched missiles.

An army insider says that despite having 27,000 members, 15,000 of which are in the combat force, the army would struggle to deploy more than 1000 extra troops overseas on a sustained basis on top of its deployments in Afghanistan, the Middle East, East Timor and Solomon Islands.

"Despite official denials, the army remains stretched," one insider says. Another defence insider says there are other problems with army deployment capabilities.

"The army also has a shortage of blue force tracking transponders, which allow friendly forces to know where our troops are and help avoid friendly-fire incidents. This would limit the number of elements we could deploy into a coalition environment."

In the field, Australian troops cannot be supported by the army's Black Hawks because they do not have infrared shields over their exhausts, making them vulnerable to shoulder-launched missiles. The entire fleet of 33 choppers - a core part of the army's capability - cannot be safely deployed to Afghanistan, much less to a more intense war.

This means Australian troops deployed in Oruzgan province are still relying on NATO helicopters rather than their own Black Hawks to evacuate wounded soldiers.

1 comment:

Raymond III said...

Hey, hey, hey...don't disrespect the Vark. The F-111 was the most effective strike aircraft of Desert Storm, with a mission success ratio of 3.2:1 (compared to 1.1:1 for the A-6E, 1.2:1 for the Tornado Gr.1, 1.0:1 for the Mudhen and 0.8:1 for the F/A-18)and scoring more than a thousand kills on armored vehicles, and this with only 66 aircraft. The F-111 was better at killing armor than pretty much anything else; Four-ship tank-plinking sorties were the most effective tactic of the air war. Additionally, no friendly strike aircraft were lost to Radar-guided SAMs while EF-111s were on station protecting them.
The F-111s ECM suite is out of date, but in its day, it most certainly didn't suck, and unless the Aussies plan on penetrating some intense Integrated Air Defense network unassisted in the near future, the Vark should be more than adequate for their purposes. It can haul a whole lot of explosives and loiter like most modern tactical aircraft only dream of. Is it a good fighter? No, but it's faster than most Russian fighters. The F-111 has a lame origin story but acquitted itself very, very well in the end.
Reverence, sir, reverence...