Australia and the F-35 supply chain: in lockstep with Lockheed

May 8, 2024
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jet plane on the tarmac of Kleine-Brogel Airbase.

Australia is one of six western countries that are complicit in the ‘genocidal erasure’ of the Palestinian people by continuing to supply Israel with arms, according to Dr Ghassan Abu-Sitta, a British-Palestinian surgeon and newly elected rector of Glasgow University.

Israel’s relentless bombing campaign has systematically destroyed all of Gaza’s 11 universities plus more than 400 schools, and killed 6,000 students, 230 teachers, 100 professors and deans, and two university presidents.

The elimination of entire educational institutions (both infrastructure and human resources) is ‘scholasticide’ and is a critical component of the genocidal erasure, says Dr Abu-Sitta.

He named the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and France as comprising an ‘axis of genocide’ because they have been supporting the genocide in Gaza with arms, and had also maintained political support for Israel.

Dr Abu-Sitta worked in Gaza for 43 days in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 attacks. His experience was cited in South Africa’s genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In his submission to the ICJ, Dr Abu-Sitta wrote: ‘There was a girl with just her whole body covered in shrapnel. She was nine. I ended up having to change and clean these wounds with no anaesthetic and no analgesic. I managed to find some intravenous paracetamol to give her…her Dad was crying, I was crying, and the poor child was screaming…’

Australia defies the UN

The Albanese government has consistently denied it is supplying weapons to Israel, even as the United Nations pointed a finger directly at Australia, alongside the US, Germany, France, the UK, and Canada, asking these countries to immediately halt all weapons transfers to Israel, including weapons parts, and to halt export licences and military aid.

The Defence Department has refused to answer questions about whether it has halted the arms export permits for Israel that were in place before October 7, the day of Hamas’s deadly attack in Israel.

Defence approved new export permits to Israel after October 7

Defence approved three new export permits to Israel in October 2023, and none in November, December or January (to 29/1), according to figures Defence released following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request I lodged on 29 January.

In a Senate estimates hearing on February 14, the Defence Department revealed it had approved two new export permits to Israel since the Hamas attacks of October 7. Asked for clarification about the timing, Defence’s deputy secretary of Strategy, Policy, and Industry, Mr Hugh Jeffrey, said, ‘Two export permits have been granted since the time of the last estimates’. The previous estimates hearing had been on 25 October 2023.

The Senate Estimates and FOI evidence together show that Defence approved one export permit to Israel prior to October 7 and two in the period October 25–31.

Mr Jeffrey refused to say what items the two new permits covered. Instead he said they ‘would have been agreed on the basis that they did not prejudice Australian national interests under the criterion of the legislation’.

Possible implications

Israel has been using its F-35 fighter jets in its bombardment of Gaza. Australia is one of a number of countries that manufacture and export parts and components into Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet global supply chain. Given this, there are several reasons why the above information may be significant:

  • The head of the F-35 joint program office, Lieutenant General Michael Schmidt, a US Air Force officer, said a year ago that the F-35 program was established with a ‘just in time’ supply chain, where parts arrive just before they’re needed and very little inventory is stockpiled. [Emphasis added.] Lt-Gen Schmidt described that situation as ‘too risky’.
  • In mid-December, a US Congressional hearing on the F-35 program revealed that the F-35 joint program office had been moving ‘at a breakneck speed to support…Israel…by increasing spare part supply rates’. [Emphasis added.]
  • More than 70 Australian companies are involved in the global supply chain for the F-35. Several of the companies are the sole global source of the parts they produce. Without them, new F-35 jets cannot be built and those parts in existing jets cannot be replaced. The US recently authorised the transfer to Israel of 25 more F-35s.

The F-35 global supply chain is vulnerable to disruption, which is why Australia could be under pressure to continue meeting supply contracts.

In his testimony to the December 12 Congressional hearing, Lieutenant General Schmidt also made clear the role of the F-35 joint program office in closely supporting Israel:

I had the opportunity to talk with [Israel’s] Chief of Staff just yesterday… [Israel is] very satisfied with [the] performance [the] sustainment enterprise is giving them. We could learn a lot from them in terms of the quickness with which they’re turning airplanes, [plus] all of the things we’re learning ourselves with moving parts around the world in support of a conflict. [Emphasis added.]

This information from the US highlights the importance to the F-35 supply chain of the steady and reliable delivery (‘just in time’) of Australian parts and components, particularly those from sole source suppliers.

The evidence above and its timing make it possible that Defence’s two export permit approvals for Israel in late October may have been related to the US-led rush to organise increased supply of F-35 spare parts for Israel.


Republished from Undue Influence, 3 May 2024

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