Defence Procurement

Mr NEUMANN (3.18 pm)—My question is to the Minister for Defence Materiel. Will the minister update the House on the progress of the Super Hornet acquisition project and the benefits of this project to Australia’s defence capability.

Mr CLARE—Can I thank the member for Blair for his question. This is a very important project. I recently visited RAAF Base Amberley with the member and we were briefed by Wing Commander Murray ‘Dog’ Jones about this project. Earlier this year, the RAAF took delivery of the first 11 Super Hornets, and I can advise the House that three more are scheduled to arrive later this year. Ten more are due over the course of next year. All will be based at Amberley. These are state-of-the-art fighter planes and a step from on the current classic Hornets.

All three of the aircraft on their way will be wired with the potential to be converted in the future into Growlers. Growlers would give us the ability to jam the electronics systems of enemy aircraft and land based radars and communications systems. Twelve Super Hornets will be wired in this way and this will provide future governments with the option to add this capability in the future.

I can also advise the House that testing is now complete on a new glide missile the Super Hornets will carry called the Joint Standoff Weapon C. It can glide for up to 100 kilometres and destroy targets like concrete walls and bunkers with pinpoint accuracy. Testing over the last two months at the Woomera test range has been successful. This means that the Super Hornets are on track to become operational later this year.

A lot of credit for this must go to the former Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson. The Super Hornets would not be in Australia if not for the decision that he made. Credit should also go to the member for Hunter, the Chief Government Whip, who was the driving force behind the decision to wire 12 of the Super Hornets with the potential to be converted to Growlers in the future, and to the former Minister for Defence, Senator Faulkner, and former Minister for Defence Materiel, now the Minister for Climate Change, who have overseen the delivery of the Super Hornets on time and under budget. This project is an important part of delivering the defence capability we need and there are a lot of defence personnel working with industry and the US Navy to make sure it is a success.

The arrival of the Super Hornets marks an important transition for the RAAF. The final F111 squadron will be decommissioned later this year after four decades of service. On 2 December, the RAAF will be holding a decommissioning parade at Amberley, and the next day the F111s will do their final fly-past and the last of their signature dump-and-burns. There will be many more people to recognise that week, as we mark the end of one chapter of Australia’s military aviation history and start another with the arrival of the Super Hornets.