Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 16:52 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 16:52 | SYDNEY

The Super Hornet decision


Sam Roggeveen


17 March 2008 17:34

In late January I speculated  that, given Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s strong language against the previous government’s decision to buy 24 Super Hornet fighters, he would be hard pressed not to cancel the deal. Well blow me down if Fitzgibbon didn’t just announce that, not only is the deal going ahead, but the Air Combat Capability Review committee which made that recommendation is also going to look into buying specialized electronic warfare variants of the Super Hornet, which would likely increase the overall cost.

Fitzgibbon’s press release frames the decision as if it was forced on the new government by the poor planning of its predecessor. But it also says Super Hornet is an excellent aircraft that can meet all regional threats. So in short, Fitzgibbon is saying the Howard Government incompetently made the right choice. Fitzgibbon has done the right thing by reviewing a decision he thought was badly arrived at. But if the Super Hornet deal now goes wrong, he will have far less reason to pin it on the opposition. The air power review was Fitzgibbon’s idea, and this decision is now his.

It's to Fitzgibbon’s credit that he took this course, yet for me, this decision still comes too early. The Defence White Paper is at least six months away, and how the government can make such massive procurement decisions before it has decided on a defence strategy is baffling. Shouldn't procurement be determined by strategy?