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Australia to buy F-35s for its air force

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F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Image credit: Lockheed Martin

CANBERRA (BNS): The Australian Government has approved a $3.2 billion plan to acquire 14 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) for its air force.

Australian Defence Minister John Faulkner said on Wednesday that the decision to buy the combat aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) "followed years of unprecedented evaluation and planning" by all countries involved in fifth-generation fighter’s development.

Australia plans to acquire 72 such aircraft and the first batch of 14 F-35s are expected to be delivered by 2014. Faulkner said approval for the remaining JSFs would be considered in 2012.

Acquisition of an additional operational squadron – bringing the total number of F-35s to around 100 – will be considered at a later date along with a decision to withdraw the F/A-18F Super Hornet from the RAAF which is expected by early 2020, the Australian Defence Department said.

The F-35 is a fifth-generation multi-role stealth combat aircraft capable of performing close air support, tactical bombing and air defence missions. It is being jointly developed by the US, UK and other partner countries.

RAAF chief Mark Binskin said the F-35 acquisition would enable Australia maintain its regional air combat superiority.

“It will also enable Australia to effectively contribute to regional security and enhances opportunities for interoperability and commonality to support future coalition operations," the air force chief was quoted as saying by The Australian.

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