April 23, 2014 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Australian Government has approved the acquisition of an additional 58 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. Together with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge.
Australia’s first F-35 Lightning II in the factory in Fort Worth. [Lockheed Martin photo by Beth Groom]
The F-35 will also provide a major boost to the ADF
’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
The first F-35 aircraft will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2020.
Australia has been working with the United States as a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter programme since the Coalition joined in 2002. Acquiring F-35 aircraft will reinforce the ADF’s ability to operate seamlessly with US forces and Australia’s capacity to continue supporting our shared strategic interests under the US alliance.
The acquisition of F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including in regional areas and for the local defence industry with more jobs and production for many locally-based skilled and technical manufacturers.
The total capital cost of $12.4 billion for this acquisition includes the cost of associated facilities, weapons and training.
Around $1.6 billion in new facilities and infrastructure will be constructed, including at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.
As a result of the Howard Government’s decision to join during the development phase, Australian defence industry has been awarded over $355 million in work and stands to win well in excess of $1.5 billion in JSF
-related production and support work over the life of the programme – creating long-term advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs.
The F-35 will replace the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet aircraft. For over three decades, the Classic Hornet has been the backbone of Australia’s air combat capability. These aircraft have delivered exceptional service to Australia’s security but will be withdrawn from service by 2022.
The new 58 F-35 aircraft, in addition to the 14 already approved in 2009, will provide the RAAF with a total of 72 aircraft to form three operational squadrons and one training squadron.
The Australian Government will also consider the option of acquiring an additional squadron of F-35 aircraft to replace the Super Hornets in the future.