Australia to buy 58 US F-35s for $14.5b

Australia to buy 58 US F-35s for $14.5b
File photo of a Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

SYDNEY - Australia will purchase 58 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at a cost of Aus$12.4 billion (S$14.5 billion), the government said.

The new aircraft will bring Australia's total JSF force to 72 aircraft, with the first due to arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service in 2020.

"The F-35 will provide a major boost to the Australian Defence Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement released late Tuesday.

The deal is in addition to 14 F-35s Australia already approved in 2009.

"The acquisition of F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including regional areas and local defence industry," Abbott added.

The government, which was to make a formal announcement on the deal later Wednesday, will also consider an option to buy another squadron of F-35s to replace the air force's fleet of F/A-18 Super Hornets.

The JSF has been touted as a technological wonder but has suffered setback after setback with a budget blown out to US$390 billion (S$490 billion) and seven years behind schedule, making it the costliest weapons programme in US history.

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