Turns Out Tony Abbott’s $12bn Fighter Jets Will Actually Cost $24bn Instead. Sorry!
What a time to be alive.
Yesterday, the Australian Government announced that it would be spending $12.4 billion on 58 more F-35 Joint Striker Fighters, bringing our total force to 72.
While the announcement was supported by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, critics pointed out that it was perhaps not the best use of money from a Government that continues to claim to be too poor to pay for things people actually need. Like, for instance, Medicare.
The planes themselves are riddled with problems. Firstly, they are fair-weather friends: despite costing $200 million each, current models have proven unable to fly in storms. Perhaps more worrying, they are not suited for the type of battle Australia tends to engage in. The Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon pointed out that while the F-35s are well suited for high-end combat, Australia’s needs are more along the lines of “Afghanistan-style operations, the troubled waters of the South China Sea, counter-piracy, peace operations, keeping some degree of regional calm with some turbulence in the ASEAN region… It’s a debatable proposition whether the F-35 is the best bang for your buck.” Thirdly, I was struck by this sadly-unattributed factoid from Fairfax: “Pentagon chief has complained that parts fall off the plane mid-flight.” :(
But the final complaint levelled against the purchase was illustrated handily by Tony Abbott himself, who conceded later that the cost of running the planes would actually double the spend. “This purchase is $12 billion for the aircraft and equipment associated with the aircraft and a further $12 billion to keep them operational until 2024,” he said.
TL;DR: That’s $24 billion all up for planes that only fly when the weather is nice, won’t suit the types of wars we fight, and maybe have bits that fall off when they’re in the air. Meanwhile, Treasurer Joe Hockey is expected to release his worryingly secretive budget recommendations in a few days, and we have no more money for Medicare.