The Department of Defence (Defence) anticipates the arrival in Australia of the first two of 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft in December 2018. The JSF aircraft will replace the Royal Australian Air Force’s ageing F/A-18 A/B Classic Hornet aircraft. Defence expects to declare final operational capability of its new JSF aircraft in 2023.
Defence has established multiple programs and projects to acquire, further develop, and support Australia’s new air combat capability. The principal program is AIR 6000 and the primary phase, Phase 2A/2B, represents the major purchase of the JSF aircraft and associated support systems, and is the focus of this ANAO performance audit. The total acquisition budget for AIR 6000 Phase 2A/2B is some $15.5 billion with government approving a further $4.6 billion in 2014 for operating and support costs until 2024–25.
The Auditor-General chose to undertake this audit into Defence’s preparations for the JSF aircraft’s introduction into Australian service and sustainment planning due to: the imminent arrival of the first two JSF aircraft in Australia; the high cost of the program; the JSF’s particular acquisition and sustainment arrangements; and the anticipated contribution of the JSF aircraft to Australia’s future Defence capability.
The objective of the audit is to assess the effectiveness of the Department of Defence’s preparations for the introduction of the Joint Strike Fighter into Australian service and its subsequent sustainment.
The high-level audit criteria are:
- Defence has established effective strategic planning and project governance arrangements; and
- Defence has undertaken effective planning, is achieving progress against relevant plans and effective risk management is occurring for selected capabilities.