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First two F-35 JSFs for Australian Air Force roll out of factory

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The F-35 JSF at roll out ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas. A Lockheed Martin photo

FORT WORTH (BNS): Lockheed Martin has rolled out the first two F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at its Fort Worth facility in Texas on Thursday.

The official ceremony was attended by high-ranking officials from the US and Australia, including the RAAF Chief Air Marshal Geoff Brown.

"Today, we celebrate a milestone in the US-Australia partnership, a partnership built on strength, friendship, and technological innovation," said Frank Kendall, US Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics.

"We join Australia, as one of our original partners, to celebrate this roll out and the numerous Australian contributions to the Joint Strike Fighter programme. For both our nations, this programme represents an exponential leap in capability on the cutting edge of technology -- and an integral component of our ongoing joint commitment to stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific," he remarked.

The two aircraft, designated AU-1 and AU-2, are scheduled to undergo functional fuel system checks before being transported to the flight line for ground and flight tests in the coming months.

The jets are scheduled to be delivered to the RAAF later this year, and will be based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where they will be used for Australian and partner country pilot training.

The Australian Government has so far committed to buy a total of 72 JSFs at a cost of $12.4 billion, with an option to acquire another 28 in the next few years.

The remaining F-35 fighters are scheduled to be delivered from 2017 through 2022.

The RAAF is slated to take delivery of the first F-35 in 2018 and it will enter service in 2020.

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