Monday, January 30, 2012

Australia considering delaying delivery of 12 F-35s on order

F-35A during a night test flight (Photo: Lockheed-Martin)

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith has said that Australia may consider delaying the delivery of 12 of the 14 Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) it has on order.

Speaking at a press conference (transcript), the Minister said Australia is contractually bound to purchase two aircraft to be based in the United States for training purposes to be delivered in 2014. However the delivery schedule for the 12 additional aircraft Australia has committed to in 2009, currently set at between 2015 and 2017, will be re-examined.

The Joint Strike Fighter has been beset by a raft of development problems; bedeviled by cost overruns, technical and performance issues, as well as production and flight testing delays. Australia is a Level 3 partner in the program, and several Australian companies are involved in the design and manufacturing of components for the JSF.

Australia has already previously indicated that it is considering purchasing additional Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets to cover any capability gap that may develop if the JSF encounters further significant delays. The Royal Australian Air Force currently operates 24 Super Hornets alongside 4 squadrons of older F/A-18A/B Hornets, which are due to be fully retired by 2020 and replaced by the F-35.

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