The Government has approved the acquisition of an additional 58 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, at a total capital cost of $12.4 billion.
The fifth generation F-35 is the most advanced fighter in production anywhere in the world and will make a vital contribution to our national security in coming decades. The first F-35 aircraft will arrive in Australia in 2018 and the first Royal Australian Air Force operational F-35A squadron will stand-up in 2020.
Together with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge. 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 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
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 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.
The acquisition of F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including regional areas and local defence industry.
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 far-sighted decision to join during the development phase, Australian defence industry has been awarded over $355 million in work and stands to win more than $1.5 billion in JSF-related production work over the life of the programme – creating long-term advanced manufacturing jobs. There are expected to be additional opportunities for Australian industry in the ongoing support of the F-35 in Australia.
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 These aircraft have delivered exceptional service to Australia’s security but will be withdrawn from service by 2022.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 Government will also consider the option of acquiring an additional squadron of F-35 aircraft to replace the Super Hornets in the future.
The Government remains committed to building a strong, capable and sustainable Australian Defence Force.