'Second best ... gets you killed': Airforce Chief wants more JSFs
Australia needs at least 100 Joint Strike Fighters if the ADF is to stay a balanced force the Chief of Airforce says.
His comments come at a time when the Government is increasingly ambivalent about how many Joint Strike Fighters it will buy and when it will order them.
Air Marshall Geoff Brown has not ruled out the possibility the RAAF may have some JSFs in service in Australia by the end of 2019, despite this week's budget decision to defer the next purchase of 12 by two years.
He said there is no reason to believe - at this point - that the classic Hornets, dating back to the 1980s, can't be kept operational until the new planes are ready.
"Fighters are not a boutique capability, numbers matter," he told today's RAAF Air Power conference in Canberra.
"Air forces are like poker hands; second best gets you nothing and actually gets you killed."
He said Australia needed to invest in a fifth generation fighter if it wanted to be a "first rate airforce".
The JSF is the only fifth generation fighter available to Australia.
Describing his own experiences flying against an F-22 fifth generation fighter in an F-15D, Air Marshal Brown said a lot more than stealth was involved.
"At the post exercise debriefing I was amazed at the level of situational awareness the F22 guys had," he said.
Air Marshal Brown has welcomed the decision to consider upgrading 12 of Australia's Super Hornets to electronic warfare 'Growlers' this year.
"We saw the debut of the Growler in the air operations over Libya last year," he said.
"The planes were instrumental in shutting down the major Libyan surface to air missile sites and opening the door to other aircraft.
"Growlers would provide Australia's joint force with a combat advantage that would be decisive in many situations."
If Australia goes down the Growler route the RAAF would be the only air force outside the US with the capability.