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Dear Donald Trump, Australia wants its $125 million back

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The cost of one EA-18G Growler could fund several essential waterbomber planes (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Our government's military spending and waste of money are under scrutiny at a time when our bushfire crisis requires financial resources, writes Tarric Brooker.

BACK IN JANUARY 2018, a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) EA-18G Growler electronic warfare fighter jet was training at Nellis Air Force Base, just outside Las Vegas in the United States. As the jet was in the middle of building up speed to take off, its engines experienced an uncontained catastrophic failure. Essentially, there was an explosion in the engine which sent bits of the fan blades like shrapnel throughout the airframe, sparking a fire and completely writing off the aircraft.

A Growler is not a cheap piece of hardware, at a cost of $125 million per plane, the RAAF was less than pleased that one its aircraft had been completely totalled. After an extensive investigation, a faulty engine part from a supplier to the engines manufacturer General Electric was revealed as the cause of the expensive military “mishap”.

The RAAF naturally wanted to be compensated by the manufacturer for the cost of the aircraft, since the RAAF concluded they weren’t responsible for the accident.

Unfortunately, unlike a civilian aircraft where the owner of a faulty plane could simply take the matter up with Boeing (the airframe’s manufacturer) or sue them in a court of law if the matter couldn’t be resolved to their satisfaction, there is a convoluted and difficult process to be compensated for the loss of a warplane.

The RAAF instead had to make a claim through the United States Navy, to then go through Boeing in an attempt to be compensated for the cost of the lost aircraft.

After almost two years, the U.S. Navy wrote to the RAAF with their final decision on the matter. Neither the United States nor Boeing was going to compensate Australia at all for the loss of the $125 million aircraft.

The Morrison Government is currently keenly watching every dollar leaving the Treasury for bushfire relief and found an additional $20 million to lease four more waterbombers from overseas.

One can’t help but feel that $125 million would have come in handy in recent months, as Australia grapples with the most disastrous bushfire season in the history of our nation.

The single 737 waterbomber of the NSW Rural Fire Service has already proven invaluable this bushfire season helping to save homes and stop firefronts in their tracks. At a cost of $26.3 million, the aircraft has more than proved its worth to the people of Australia, going back and forth across the country where it’s needed most.

For around the same cost as our single totalled EA-18G Growler, the Federal Government could have five large 737 waterbombers ready to be sent to assist whatever state fire service requires them in their time of need.

As our climate continues to change and the drought continues to dry our environment, our fire services may need far greater air support, just as the 23 former fire and emergency services chiefs suggested to the Prime Minister back in April last year.

Knowing how far $125 million could go in assisting our firefighters for years or potentially even decades to come, I think Australia has a very important statement to make to the Americans.

Donald Trump, Australia wants its $125 million back.

Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and political commentator. You can follow Tarric on Twitter @AvidCommentator.

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