The Australian government has committed to buying an additional 58 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) for $12.4 billion Australian or roughly $11.5 billion in U.S. dollars.
The new commitment comes on top of the country’s previously pledge to buy 14 of the stealthy new jets in 2009. That brings Australia’s total commitment to 72 F-35s to replace the bulk of the country’s aged Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornets, which are slated to be withdrawn by 2022.
“The timing and size of specific orders will depend on the prime manufacturers meeting the agreed cost, schedule and performance requirements, as well as providing continuing commitment to participation by Australian industry,” states an Australian government release on Wednesday.
According to the release, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35 will arrive in country in 2018. That should lead to the first operational RAAF F-35A squadron standing-up in 2020.
The RAAF will use the F-35 in conjunction with its relatively new fleet of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets and future fleet of 12 EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft. The Growlers are expected to become operational in 2018.
“Together with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge,” the Australian government release states. “It will allow the RAAF to conduct decisive, long-range strikes while remaining hidden from adversaries. The F-35 will also provide a major boost to the ADF’s [Australian Defence Force] intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.”
Lockheed Martin expressed its delight in a statement released by company spokeswoman Laura Siebert.
“Lockheed Martin appreciates the confidence the Australian government has demonstrated in the F-35 by their decision today,” she wrote.
“As the world’s only internationally available 5th generation aircraft, the F-35 provides transformational capability to the Royal Australian Air Force ensuring their ability to maintain a technological leading edge in the region, well into the future.”