While most public interest tends to focus on the Commonwealth’s acquisition of sophisticated and expensive, but very modern, platforms and weapons systems, this capability is only useful when it is in service maintained and often upgraded through sustainment projects.
The following list of Top 30 Sustainment Products reveals the amount of work and expense which goes into keeping the ADF’s major assets at the top of their capabilities. The listings below for each domain are in descending order for the next financial year’s planned total expenditure.
For brevity, each entry is summarised by product name and product serial in brackets, while the Australian dollar financial figures in millions to the end of 2021-22 precede a description of each sustainment product.
As yet there is no Space Domain sustainment recorded, but that can only be a matter of time.
F/A18F SUPER HORNET & GROWLER WEAPON SYSTEM $521M
The Air Combat and Airborne Electronic Attack capability comprises a fleet of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornet and 11 EA-18G Growler aircraft, with associated support elements. The F/A-18F Super Hornet delivers Air Combat capability. The EA-18G Growler is an electronic attack aircraft capable of disrupting, deceiving or denying a broad range of military electronic systems, including radars and communications. Both capabilities are operated from RAAF Base Amberley QLD.
The Super Hornet achieved Final Operational Capability in December 2012.
The Growler achieved Initial Operational Capability in April 2019, with Final Operational Capability due mid-2022. In-service support arrangements are through prime contracts with Boeing Defence Australia (platform stewardship), Raytheon Australia (training support) and GE II (engine support).
During 2021-22, spiral capability upgrades will continue on both Super Hornet and Growler aircraft and associated support systems. Growler aircrew training will remain a priority with the ongoing introduction of the Mobile Threat Training Emitter System which will provide broad benefits across the Air Combat Program
AIRBORNE EARLY WARNING AND CONTROL SYSTEM – AEWC $249M
The Airborne Early Warning and Control capability comprises six E-7A Wedgetail aircraft and associated support elements operated from RAAF Base Williamtown NSW. Boeing Defence Australia (as the prime contracting partner) together with Boeing Defence Systems, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, BAE Systems Australia, and Thales Australia, provide a performance-based support arrangement for maintenance, logistics, engineering, training and program management in order to support the capability.
During 2021-22, the focus will be on maintaining fleet mission capability and availability throughout the AIR 5077 Phase 5A modification program while continuing to assess, prioritise and address emerging obsolescence requirements and minor modifications to maintain the capability.
F-35 JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER $216M
The F-35A Lightning II capability currently comprises 33 aircraft based at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW and is planned to grow to 39 by June 2021 and 56 by June 2022. The aircraft and associated support elements are transitioning into service and will provide Australia with a fifth-generation Air Combat capability.