Big ‘problem’ with Aussie fighter jets part of ‘chronic mismanagement’
Australia’s fleet of F-35A fighter jets will spend less time in the air than previously thought, Defence documents reveal.
The Joint Strike Fighters have had their flying hours downgraded by 25 per cent this financial year, according to budget estimates filed by the Department of Defence last week.
The opposition said the revelation showed the $16.6 billion fighter jet program was “plagued with problems” and demanded an explanation from Defence Minister Peter Dutton.
“The (Joint Strike Fighters) aircraft are critical to Australia’s defence, and the fact that they are flying thousands of hours less than planned is a real concern,” opposition defence spokesman Brendan O‘Connor and assistant defence spokesman Pat Conroy said in a joint statement.
“How can Minister Dutton claim that he and the government have our troops’ backs when they cannot even ensure that JSFs are available for the hours budgeted?
“As always, it is the Australian Defence Force which suffers from a lack of availability of critical platforms due to the chronic mismanagement of Defence projects by this government.”
The document said the flying hours projected in 2021-22 had been reduced from 11,813 to 8773.
Labor‘s analysis showed flying hours had been reduced by 17, 14 and 13 per cent for each of the next three financial years.
The first F-35A aircraft arrived in the country in 2018, and the commonwealth government said 72 jets would be fully operational by next year.
Labor estimates the jets cost about $200m each, excluding maintenance costs.
Scott Morrison, who posed in one of the jets to the tunes of the Top Gun soundtrack in a publicity stunt last year, said at the time the induction of the aircraft would strengthen the country's defence.
“This is about protecting and securing Australia’s interests but it’s also creating jobs and driving investment right here in the Hunter and across the country too,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Dutton‘s office has been contacted for comment.
Originally published as Big ‘problem’ with Aussie fighter jets part of ‘chronic mismanagement’
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