Australia Should Buy F-22s, Not F-35s, Says Retired RAAF Wing Commander

A submission to a Senate inquiry into the feasibility of Government's planned purchase of at least 72 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets says that the multirole planes will be instantly outmatched in air superiority by the airborne wings of competing countries in the region like China and Indonesia, and will fare even worse against future threats. It suggests -- hypothetically -- that Australia instead push for the F-22 Raptor, a jet that the United States has never sold to even its closest military allies.

In the submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade's Joint Strike Fighter inquiry, Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander Chris Mills AM, MSc, BSc (Retd) says that lessons from history and statistical modelling suggest that the F-35 is a poor choice for the future of warfare in the region, which centres around air superiority versus countries like Indonesia and China.

A simulation showing six F-35s versus six Sukhoi SU-35S, Indonesia's intended future air superiority fighter choice for its air force, suggests that 2.36 Joint Strike Fighters would be lost for every SU-35S downed. The simulation was run on H3MilSim software developed by Mills' RepSim, a company he and a colleague set up after retiring from the RAAF.

A simulation of the aerially superior F-22 Raptor, though, results in an almost precisely opposite outcome -- with 2.14 Sukhoi jets destroyed per F-22 loss. While the F-35 is a newer jet, it is a multirole fighter capable of ground attack and reconnaissance, while the F-22 has the sole role of air superiority and supremacy in enemy airspace.

With future fifth-generation aircraft like the Sukhoi PAK FA / T-50, China's own Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31 on the horizon from Australia's regional competitors, Mills suggests that production of the F-22 be restarted and the fighter itself exported for Australia's use in local air superiority roles. Production of the F-22 by Lockheed Martin, its partners and the USAF was discontinued in 2011, but Mills says the tooling to produce several hundred new jets still exists and could be put to work on the very same production line as creates the Joint Strike Fighter in Dallas, Texas.

This is a thought exercise, obviously -- the United States has never sold the F-22A to any other country on Earth, and the export itself is currently banned on national security grounds. But the shortcomings of the F-35 -- without any next-generation "beyond visual range" over-the-horizon air-to-air missiles like the Meteor BVRAAM planned for Australia, although that missile is being developed for F-35 compatibility by the UK RAF and Ministry of Defence -- are made clear by Mills' submission.

Another submission from retired Wing Commander Anthony Wilkinson says that in its capacity as a multirole aircraft, the F-35's bomb load is too small and its range is too short to be effective in the South Asia region. Other submissions, like that from Jai Galliott, suggest the Air Force and government should look into drones and pilotless versions of the F-35, which are not currently planned for development. [Australian Senate]



    Hasn't Australia been suckered into buying the F35 under a non breakable contract with Lockheed? Or, there is a penalty for pulling out. What a con.

      Better to pull out than end up with 72 kids you don't want though.

        but the tech idot abbot wants the best of the best for the highest price imaginable cause that means its the best, its too bad that some1 didnt get rid of him befor he commited aus to more of the broken useless planes

          And which part of the process to work out which planes to buy did Abbott intervene at? The numerous committees and experts who chose this plane? The Defence Minister's office? No really, do tell which part of this was Abbott's choice?
          And let's not mention this quote from a document from 2011-2012 Major Projects Report - "Phase 2A/B Stage 1 of the project will acquire an initial tranche of 14 CTOL F-35 JSF aircraft and
          associated support and enabling elements"
          I won't mention who was in power in 2012 if you won't.

            It was either Grudd or Rillard, Shortlifeleader was only an underling then.

              whathesaids: Abbott just took credit and photo ops for it.

        Unfortunately pulling out isn't guaranteed either.

      You'll find it isn't a con it's standard practice in many industries

    We should be buying the Russian aircraft, better value for money @ 65 million each as opposed to a ridiculous 159 million for an F22, hate to know the price tag of the stupid F35...what are we going to have a fleet of aircraft or just 1 to maintain national security.....Buy Russian !!!!

      Which one? The PAK-FA with a helluva lot more unknowns than the F-35 or the Su-35 that is built on an airframe that is older than the F/A-18s it would replace? And how, for example, would we deploy these aircraft to the places we are currently deploying to, given that none of the avionics or weapons would be compatibile with any of our allies? It would likely triple or quadruple the cost of such deployments, dwarfing the few million we might save on buying them.

      Buy Russian and throw interoperability out the window? No thanks.

      Surely you jest.

      We're buying 72 of them at a reported cost of $17B - although that's in $A and the numbers you mention are probably in $US. Works out at $236M each (as of October 2015).

      OTOH the ABC article I pulled that from said "the cost of each aircraft was expected to average out to $90 million by 2023" and that the initial cost was $126.7M each, so somebody is playing games with the math.

      The main problem with the F35 at the moment is the long list of problems with the plane - so many things that it's supposed to be capable of which it allegedly can't do yet.

      I am so sick of this. The yanks have stuffed this up and they were never even thinking of their allies. A stealth F16 was only ever going to work as a cheap unit for their battle plan and as a foreign sales item for mid level countries. Like the f16. But they have demonstrated incompetence on a Grande scale while not even addressing the people who really need a medium twin. Like the f18.

      For us I believe there are only two options. Either convince them to build more than 187 f22s or buy the rights to ye olde f111, a pensioned off design that comprehensively flogs newer ones in capability. We then spruce it up with new avionics, engines and some of the "gen 4.5" type tweaks. We already know they work and that they can deliver stand off weapons, turn and outrun anything they might meet. Without improvements. Ironically, I bet the yanks would end up buying some new build f111s themselves. I suspect stealth will be a fad.

      Btw, the cost of an aircraft is probably best calculated by dividing program cost by units made. The F22 cost a lot more than 150 million by that measure. More like 360 million.

      F-35A: $102.1 million per plane
      F-35B: $131.6 million per plane
      F-35C: $132.2 million per plane
      All 3 - 4 times the cost of the su-35

    I thought the story was that the Australian government did try to get the F-22 Raptor from the States, and that the Americans basically said "No Effing Way."

    Last edited 02/02/16 1:56 pm

      Yeah, cause the Yanks are scared that if we had 15 F-22s we would invade them.

    Anyway the Sukhoi trumps the F22, Sukhoi can cruise at 59100ft where the F22 can do only 50000 ft, top speed of Su35 is 1677mph whereas the F22 is 921 mph...the F22 uses its wings for fuel making it a flying bomb as well....The Russians know how to build aircraft without concern for profit.

      What, precisely, is the advantage of cruising at 59,000' as opposed to 50,000'? You clearly have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

        a pilot will often make trade offs between the fighter’s potential energy (altitude), and kinetic energy (airspeed), to maintain the energy-to-weight ratio of the aircraft, or the "specific to weight ratio ...who is the idiiiooot now?

          Nice quote, but it's irrelevant compared to your original statement.

      Flying bomb you make me laugh
      Do you know stupidly hard it is to ignite modern jet fuels. Plus the self sealing tanks and all that.
      What's the servicing intervals. Air frame life. Ease of maintenance and Traing structues like
      You know all the things that also cost time and money. And add or subtract from suitability.

      The F22 can supercruise at 1385MPH. The sukhoi pak fa can cruise at 1118MPH. Don't make crap up!

      Torid, are the airshows in your neck of the woods too boring and you'd rather see more crashes?

      The Russians know how to build aircraft without concern for safety, serviceability, or reliability.

    Hell, buy twice as many F18's and tool them up with the latest tech. We'd still be way ahead.

      As we were doing with f111's

        The F111 was a brilliant piece of kit and I'm assuming you're comparing their ages, but I think the F18's are holding up a bit better and are superior fighters, the F111's weren't fighters. Plus the F11's had a filthy habit of poisoning the poor buggers who maintained the fuel spaces in the wings.

    This whole article is pointless.... Of course the F-22 is better than the F-35... that's why they don't sell the F-22 to anyone else.

    the United States has never sold the F-22A to any other country on Earth, and the export itself is currently banned on national security grounds.

      Well no, it's not better than the F-35 in a lot of ways -- but it's (supposedly) better for the purpose for which WGCDR Mills thinks future air warfare will play out in South Asia.

        There's a lot of people who argue that VTOL is pointless and expensive. Especially for Australia who don't have aircraft carriers... we're getting the non-VTOL version of course, but it's still the same airframe. The problem is the F-35 tries to be a jack of all trades and master of none... which means there's better hardware that can do each of it's roles better.

        The now super old and retired F111 were perfect for the South Asia region because of their high speed, high bomb capacity and very long range... but they weren't dog fighters.

        Not to mention that the F-22 is specifically a dogfighter while the F-35 is more of a ground attack aircraft. It's no surprise that the F22 wins in air-to-air combat. They are technically designed for different things even though they look similar. Comparing them is a weird thing to do for a WGCDR.

        It's more a comment about the WGCDR than you're article Campbell, sorry if it sounded like an attack on you.

        Last edited 02/02/16 2:37 pm

        Air superiority is what the F-22 is better at. Which is specialised for air warfare, regardless of region. In wartime, I know which I would prefer defending us. That being said, we would still require another bomber to replace the F111.

        F-35 great peace time all rounder.
        F-22 great wartime air-air combat choice.

        So if I had to chose; I would rather be ready (low scale) for war than ready for peace.

        Last edited 02/02/16 4:48 pm

    So this advice boils down to "You're making a mistake, you should be buying something that isn't made and was never for sale!" got it.

    However, my understanding is that we are buying 70+ F-35s, while Indonesia has 5 (five) SU-27s. How does it do in a 6 vs 1 scenario?

      This is the salient point here. Yes, some of our neighbours are buying Su27s and maybe even Su30s but they are only buying a few of each. We will have up to 100 F-35s which means we will own the skies in any local conflict involving any of our neighbours.

    A completely useless article. Nothing more than flame-bait for keyboard warriors to squabble using wikipedia stats and unclassified level speculation.

    This Wing Commander bases his recommendation on a Simulation program he developed himself? Seems legit. The F-35 is a multi-role platform, the F-22 is a far more expensive air superiority platform (beyond what Australia's Defence budget could justify) that will never re-enter production, and will never be sold to another country. This whole 'recommendation' is a childish pipe dream.

      I don't think that his views should be discounted just because he has a stake in the simulation company. He's clearly a guy with a lot of real-world experience in the region the F-35 will be deployed in. It's still a pipe dream, sure, because I don't think anyone rational expects the F-22 to be produced and shipped to Australia any time soon...

        He openly admits to running these 'simulations' using entirely unclassified data, so it is a mis-representation of all three aircraft platforms involved. He may have had exposure to the DSTO environment but it ended in 2007, rendering it's currency to be negligible (noting research exposure, not the real hands-on exposure of a Pilot). If he had enough current exposure, he would know enough to realise his recommendation is entirely void.

      Shock horror - an air superiority fighter beats a multi-role jet at air superiority. I agree @mexpress, this is such a ridiculous recommendation...

      In a world where Australia and the RAAF somehow gain an extra few billion in funding this would be great, but since we live in reality where 1) we have to do more with less (i.e. multi-role), 2) support the aircraft not just buy them, and 3) buy an aircraft this is actually for sale, the F35 will do just fine.

    I'd be interested to hear why he thinks we are gonna need a top shelf air superiority fighter against Asia in the relatively near future.
    You only really need those in a straight up nation vs nation war and I'd be very surprised if China or Indonesia started something.

    I'd say revamp the F18s and invest into unmanned aircraft. That's what the future is gonna be about.

      What would you rather be ready for? Peace or war?

        Yes, cause that way of thinking has been so successful for merica they haven't been invaded once.

          That was a rhetorical question. But hey, I'll bite: Make sure you arm your nation with flowers, rude poetry and kisses when [insert enemy here] wants your land because they have run out of resources.

          Last edited 03/02/16 4:38 pm

            And if know one invades we can always go to a country with oil and fight there.

              "know one invades". How do you protect yourself from know ones? Maybe your already protected with your tin foil hat.

                I think we all know now where you have been [inserting your enemy]. I bet you were right behind TAbbott when he was protecting our country by shirt fronting Putin.

        I'm not saying have nothing, I'm all for having a solid standing army. But large scale war has never been more risky and less profitable than it is nowdays.
        Weapons are so advanced that in any major war everybody is gonna get real messed up real quick. Like if China did decide to up and take over all of Asia, it'd probably be the start of WW3.
        But globalization means everyone's economies are all tied up with other countries: why would China/ Indonesia start a beef with Au and the rest of the west by extension when a large chunk of their gdp is in manufacturing and selling stuff to them? Just be killing their customers.

        Any action Au will be involved in in the next 50 years will be the same kinda stuff from the last 50: getting involved in other peoples small (relatively) scale conflicts. For which a multirole would be best. Or drones.

        imo ect

          Doesn't mean we have to scale our assets. We only have to be involved in any conflict with the amount we are willing to spend. Scale is cost and in peace time we can get away with a few effective units vs a few more jack of all trades. With the former our crew are trained for wartime and overall we have a more effective class of defence force. To polarise it, I see it as pitch forks vs automatic machine guns. We have already lost the numbers game.

          Last edited 03/02/16 4:50 pm

            "We only have to be involved in any conflict with the amount we are willing to spend. "

            Really? Do you have a historical example of this?

    His entire argument is completely academic with no basis in reality. You can't buy what's not for sale. I'd love to be able to shoot down to my local In-N-Out burger for some crazy kJ action, but I can't because I have no ability to buy one.

      Who says it's not for sale? Has someone from Australia gone over the merica and asked if we can buy some?

        Just wait for the Free Trade Agreement. We will be able to fill all our aircraft carriers with more Raptors then Jurassic Park.

        Congress passed a law prohibiting sale of the F-22 to anyone who wasn't the US DoD.

        Even if the manufacturer still had an operating production line (which they don't) or even had the tooling (which they apparently should, but don't, and this is causing maintenance problems for the existing fleet) they still simply would not be permitted to to sell to us.

        For us to get the F-22, we'd need to persuade Congress to change its mind, AND we'd have to pay Lockheed the US$200 million to re-establish their production line.

        So, yes, the original article IS clickbait.

        Apart form the US saying on many occasions that they will not share F-22 fighters on national security grounds, the simple fact is they are no longer made. The contract to make them for the USAF wound up and the tooling to make them was dismantled.

    Just seems to me Australia with all the high tech it cant afford would run out of ammo way before they shot enough of the opposition out of the sky ,way before it was over whelmed ....really 20 million people against China /Indonesia simple maths

      Yea the numbers game doesn't stack up well for Australia.

    The argument for the F-35 is that it doesn't need to dog-fight, it just lobs a missile (which these days are basically 12G capable single use drones). That argument ignores advances in long wave radar positioning and spoofing/jamming - and vastly reduces the evasive envelope the F35 can employ in self defense against such missiles.
    The other side of that argument is - if Australia REALLY needed to send a pilot to drop a bomb somewhere protected by double digit SAMs and Su30's, we could pay a huge amount for a 'semi-stealthy' F35 and hope LM's advertising blurb doesn't get the pilot killed, OR how about just a stealthy missile with a long range that can be launched from a non stealthy aircraft?
    It'd have to have a catchy name - since lots of airforces would be interested in it, maybe something like Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile? JASSM has a nice ring to it. Especially if we'd already bought them, and certified them for use on our Hornets. Especially if they came in a extended range version that could fly for 1000 km...

    Let's not buy 100 F-35's - let's buy 100 Advanced Super Hornets, for less than half the price, with well understood logistics, dual engine, higher speed, longer range, compatibility with current pilot type certifications, greater weapon load and reduced RCS available. And then use the rest of the money for UCAV's like Taranis etc, or join Japan in development of the ATD-X if we think we really need a 5th gen air-superiority fighter... and maybe a real NBN (a guy can dream)... :)

    it trumps it all day don't want to be in a war with Russia, they make real weapons !

      This article talks only about how amazing the low speed manoueverability of the SU-35 is....if you want to try that crap at low speeds then an F-35's long range weapons are going to blow you out of the sky before you even know he's there. Useless.

    its funny, why don't you have an aircraft, that is a fighter and a bomber, oh of course the Russians already built one, its called the Su35. The Mericans have been screwing the whole world with its products right on back to the advent of the type1 GE Nuclear Reactor...Mmm that was a great way of boiling water ehhh?

    Purchase of the F-35 was always a political decision not a defence plan.

    While the new sukhois are beautiful aircraft, i agree with others that have posted, they are not compatible with the existing logistics and training we have here on the F18. The F22 is a great air superiority aircraft to cover other aircraft, but again, was never made available even to Israel! Best choice in my opinion would be some block 60 F16E, light, multirole, and because the yanks are replacing them with F35s, should be fecking cheap to boot! Either that or one of the other newer aircraft. Im sure the Europeans would love to sell us some Eurofighters or Rafaels!

    Has anybody considered the fact there are 2 separate aircraft because they do different jobs?

    Why did we buy 70 F35s and not 35 of each?

    The suggestion must be years old. The last F-22 was delivered to the USAF in 2012 and production ceased. They haven't been made for four years.. Not even the US can buy F-22s now. It has also been reported the tooling isn't available to create additional spare parts, let alone the whole aircraft.

    The F-35s are a complete waste of money, you want air superiority, go with the Russian Su35. I've see what its capable of, and it beats the living crap of the F-35....

    How about we do some good old fashion economy stimulating and get our best local minds to develop our own aircraft?

      Just what I was thinking. With no car industry now to speak of all we have to do is retool for Jets. Too bad Tony and Malcolm don't have the foresight. The money spent on those failed F-35s would be just the injection a homegrown defence industry could put to good use. If we were at total war this is what would happen but with politicians the way they are they would just strip the factorys and use the land for condos.

    Wow, lot's of heated discussion here. Who would have thought so many aerospace engineering experts, tactical air combat experts, politcal analysts and economists would be reading Giz? I would have thought it's mainly I.T. nerds and gadget freaks who have no idea at all about what they are commenting on. What's that? It is?

    Saying we should have the F-22 is pointless - as others have pointed out, they 'aint for sale. Not to anyone.

    The Su-35 does not compare to the JSF, so that's a silly assertion to make - that we should have purchased those instead. Plus interoperability issues.

    No, the real shame is Australia not going for the Eurofighter Typhoon. As a replacement to fill the roles vacated by the F-111, the Typhoon is the best available piece of kit out there. By all means upgrade the existing F/A-18A and B fleet to F/A-18E & F - they are perfect for us, in their intended role.

    The JSF 'jack of all trades' approach might have some asset management synergies, and on paper it's a sweet looking fighter, but the case for it as a F-111 replacement is pretty weak. guys realise that the US refuse to sell the F-22 platform on to ANY other country, hence why we bought & helped develope the F-35 in the 1st.
    No good sitting here whinging how Defence screwed up & bought the wrong aircracft when the one evryone wants ISNT & WILL NEVER BE FOR SALE.

    No point buying either. They are just an insanely expensive bluff. Australians would not support a war where subs, warships and airplanes are getting destroyed every other day.

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