The Australian Federal Government will cancel the troubled $1 billion U.S Seasprite helicopter project, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced today. (March 05, 2008)
rath wrote:Stung by the $1.4bn Seasprite helicopter procurement debacle, Defence chiefs want an accelerated purchase of the Sikorsky MH-60R in a foreign military sale purchase via the US Navy.
They believe there are clear advantages in buying proven American technology, including better interoperability between the two navies.
Sikorsky says it could deliver the first MH-60R to the RAN by late 2011 and points to four fleet squadrons already operating with the US Navy.
Cabinet's national security committee is expected to consider the Defence Department submission before Christmas as concerns mount in the navy about the run-down of the RAN's anti-submarine capability.
Not only did the RAN not get its now-junked Seasprite helicopters but the 16 elderly S-70B machines in service are not delivering the vital operational availability the navy needs.
The RAN wants to buy 24 helicopters that would enter operational service by 2014. They will be equipped with missiles and torpedoes, and perform both anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare roles.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the decision was not taken easily but the new Labor Government was left with little option other than to cancel the U.S contract.
The Government launched a review of the project late last year, shortly after winning the November 24 election.
"After careful consideration of all the issues involved, the government has decided that it intends to cancel the project," Mr Fitzgibbon said in a statement.
"Discussions will be commenced immediately with the contractor in relation to the legal and financial arrangements to facilitate this."
Details of arrangements with the contractor Kaman will be announced once mutual agreement has been reached, subject to any confidentiality issues.
Under a contract signed in 1997 and now worth about $1 billion, the Australian navy was to acquire from the USA' 11 Kaman Seasprites, each equipped with an advanced radar, datalinks and combat system, allowing it to serve as the eyes of a warship 50km away.
They were scheduled to enter service around 2001-02.
A Senate estimates committee heard last month the helicopters were still three years from service and might never meet aviation safety standards.
Seasprites topped a list of troublesome defence procurement projects but last year the then defence minister Brendan Nelson gave the project one last chance to come good - a move backed by Labor.
Mr Fitzgibbon said today the Government had decided on two measures to ensure the navy maintained an effective naval aviation capability.
As an interim approach, the operational availability of the current Seahawk helicopter fleet would be improved.
The Government will also investigate the Seahawk's planned replacement as part of its defence White Paper.
Mr Fitzgibbon said today's decision demonstrated the government's determination to make tough decisions.
"The decision taken by the Rudd Labor Government is one that should have been taken by ... (Dr) Nelson when he had the opportunity last year," he said.
"But his government decided to put its own political interests ahead of the national interest. Consequently, the responsibility of cleaning up the mess they created falls to us."
Parliamentary secretary Greg Combet, in his responsibility for defence procurement, reviewed the Seasprite project and reported back to the minister.
He said he sought detailed briefings from the navy, Kaman and the Defence Materiel Organisation as well as visiting the Seasprite base at HMAS Albatross at Nowra in NSW.
"This is a decision that the former government failed to make, instead focusing on the politics of an election year rather than our long-term strategic and capability needs," Mr Combet said in a statement.
Kaman president and chief executive Neal Keating said the Government had informed the company of its decision.
"We have received a communication from the commonwealth that we are reviewing at this time with the expectation that we will enter a constructive process with the commonwealth in order to arrive at a mutually agreeable conclusion to the Seasprite program," he said in a statement.The USA has a long history of incompetence & inferiority' when it comes to U.S military hardware.
rath wrote:The American built F-22 & F-35 are both a heap of shiit.
Australia should not buy such inferior rubbish.
The Russian-built Sukhoi fighter Jet is vastly superior to the U.S built JSF.