Australian-equipped Israeli Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are being used to commit what amounts to war crimes in Gaza by bombing civilians and providing aerial support for a murderous ground invasion.
The Lockheed-Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter global supply program is a co-operative partnership, with Australia an enthusiastic member and part of the global supply chain. The Australian government cannot escape the uses to which these aircraft are being put.
A week ago came news that Israel is stockpiling spare parts from the global supply chain, that Australia contributes to, for its F-35 ‘Adir’ fighter out of a central distribution hub in Europe.
The use of the F-35s in attacks on Gaza has been confirmed by the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi on November 7 on a visit to the Israeli Air Force’s F-35 at Nevatim Air Base.
He revealed the use of the F-35 ‘Adir’ to provide Close Air Support to troops in Gaza with 900kg JDAM bombs.
“We never did anything like this. With very heavy munitions, a very good connection between what the [ground] force needs and what the plane knows to give.”
In fact no bombs could be dropped on Gaza by an F-35 without parts manufactured for the F-35s by Melbourne company, Rosebank Engineering (RUAG Australia).
The company is the sole global producer of the F-35’s ‘uplock actuators’ that open and close the weapons bay doors to drop its payload.
“This current milestone and record of success, maintaining a 100% on-time delivery with 100% quality, proves the value of the continued investment in our F-35 global supply chain capability,” states the company’s General Manager Operations.
“It’s this reliable performance of our precision processes, managed by our dedicated and experienced technicians, that ensures the ready availability of the components to our customers worldwide.”
A Brisbane company, Ferra Engineering, manufactures ‘weapons adaptors’, the mechanisms that hold and release the bombs carried by the F-35, being dropped on civilians in Gaza.
“Ferra is the sole source supplier for the [F-35] Joint Strike Fighter weapons adaptors. Every Joint Strike Fighter flying world-wide will have adaptors produced by Ferra,” their website states.
“With an expected global fleet of around 3,000 Joint Strike Fighters by 2035, this represents a potential contract value of over $1 billion over the life of this long term program”.
In addition to the weapons adaptors, Ferra is producing and supplying more than 100 other Joint Strike Fighter component parts for the Program.
In all, more than 70 Australian companies have been awarded “over $4.13 billion in global production and sustainment contracts through the F-35 program to date”.
Australia’s complete integration into the F-35 global supply chain means that every jet that flies has many Australian parts. And countries using them, like Israel, depend on the replenishment of those parts as needed.
In the knowledge of this, Greens senator David Shoebridge in the Senate on 15 November 2023 asked Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who was acting as the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, about Australia’s contribution to the jet fighter’s role in the bombardment of Gaza:
“Noting that a recent Department of Defence media release stated ‘more than 70 Australian companies have directly shared more than $4.13 billion in global F-35 production and sustainment contracts’ and that earlier this month it was revealed that Israel has been ordering F-35 spare parts from global suppliers for the F- 35s it is using in the bombardment of Gaza, can the minister confirm whether or not Australia is or will be supplying F-35 parts to the State of Israel?”
The Minister responded by saying, “I am advised that Australia has not supplied these weapons to Israel since the Hamas-Israel conflict began and I am advised that that has been the case for at least five years.”
The Senator hadn’t asked about weapons, but about the supply of F-35 parts to Israel. To say that Australia hadn’t provided any parts to planes supplied to Israel in five years, since 2018, is not credible.
The whole point of the F-35 Global program is to provide participants with the benefits of increased capability, availability and affordability through economies of scale, interoperability and international cooperation. So by design, Australian is contributing to the global pool of F-35 spares, which is accessed by Israel.
In September 2012 the United States and the foreign participant nations agreed that F-35 sustainment assets (spare propulsion systems, support equipment and all Joint Strike Fighter air system spares) would be managed as a single global pool, which would be centrally managed by the F-35 product support manager.
A 2016 Rand Corporation report, ‘A Review of Selected International Aircraft Spares Pooling Programs Lessons Learned for F-35 Spares Pooling’, noted the F-35 program’s major international component, of eight foreign participant nations, including Australia, sharing in the system’s development and procurement.
In 2019 Australia’s Department of Defence confirmed that: “The global pool of F-35 spares are kept at various depots around the world….The Global program can source spare parts from anywhere within the Global supply chain, and is continuing to develop in maturity. The Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin are collaborating to deliver spare parts as required for F-35 users worldwide.”
It’s hardly comforting that in May the US Government Accountability Office reported that the United States Government couldn’t account for more than $85 million in F-35 Joint Strike Fighter spare parts.
Most notably, it’s countries involved in active operations that are given priority access to spare parts produced by global partners. The Defence Department made this clear:
“Where parts are limited, priority is given to those with the highest need. For example, a squadron conducting operations will be afforded higher priority than a squadron conducting regular training activities.”
The Netherlands was selected in 2019 by the US for the receipt, storage and distribution of F-35 spare parts for the European theatre, from Israel to Norway, and from the United Kingdom to the eastern border of Europe.
The European Regional Warehouse would certainly contain parts and components for the F-35 fighter, supplied from any number of Australia’s 70-plus suppliers.
It’s been revealed in early November that the Dutch Foreign Affairs department ignored internal legal advice to not provide Israel with components from their F-35 European Regional Warehouse because of the risk they may be used to commit serious violations of humanitarian law.
In early November, a legal challenge was launched in the Federal Court of Australia by Palestinian and Australian human rights organisations seeking to shed light on what Australian-made military equipment, weapons and ammunition is being sent to the Israeli military amid its attacks on the Gaza Strip.
Australia is now the 15th largest exporter of major arms globally in 2022, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which monitors global arms sales.
Australia has issued 350 defence export permits to Israel since 2017, including 52 export permits to Israel this year alone, according to the Australian Department of Defence
With Australia previously spruiking the benefits of our global defence cooperation in supply and construction, it is now notable that the government is not being forthright with the Australian people about the extent of our involvement.
Australia needs to honestly acknowledge that atrocities like Gaza are exactly the kind of risk it has signed us up for.
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