Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 00:50 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 00:50 | SYDNEY

I hereby unendorse Robert Gottliebsen


Sam Roggeveen


15 March 2010 17:16

Readers, I have failed.

My job is to communicate ideas and arguments, yet my attempt to question Robert Gottliebsen's argument that Australia faces a crisis in its air defence capability has led Gottliebsen to believe that I actually 'endorsed' his views.

Perhaps my choice of words was poor. My headline, for instance ('Relax, our air defences are fine'), fails to state clearly and unambiguously that I believe we can relax because our air defences are fine. I see that now. 

I also said Gottliebsen's argument about Indonesian air power ignored important facts, that his concern about protecting Australian cities from air attack was a red herring, and that his proposed solution to our so-called crisis — to lobby Washington for the F-22 — was high risk.

But just to clear up any lingering ambiguity, let me state for the record that I do not endorse Mr Gottliebsen's views about about Australia's air defences.

The reasons are actually pretty simple. First, it would be pointless and self-defeating to try to match Chinese or Indian air capabilities. We're a much smaller economy so buying as much kit as them would bankrupt us. And in any case, there's almost no chance of us ever going to war with either of them without the Americans on our side.

Second, we're in precisely the opposite situation in regard to Indonesia. We are the regional big dog when it comes to air power, and even if Indonesia does buy the Russian T-50 fighter, it will likely be in very small numbers, with inadequately trained pilots, no support aircraft (eg. tankers, AWACS) and poor maintenance.

Which leads me to one last point: Gottliebsen says in his latest piece that the Russian T-50 fighter 'will be supplied' to China, India and Indonesia. I know of no evidence to support this claim in regard to China and Indonesia. As for India, it is in advanced negotiations with Russia about co-developing the T-50, but those talks have not concluded.