Australia to purchase 30 more F-35 stealth jets

F-35 aircraft of the Australian Defense Force are expected to play a major role in Exercise Talisman 2021, a multi-national drill involving about 17,000 personnel, in July. Photo courtesy of Australian Department of Defense

A few months ago there was information about Australia’s possible refusal to buy fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighters. It was confirmed by Janes, which received a comment from a representative of the Australian Defense Ministry.

The Royal Australian Air Force has three fighter squadrons: two F-35 Lightning II and one F/A-18F Super Hornet. The authorities were considering buying an additional batch of F-35 Lightning IIs as part of the Air 6000 Phase 6 project, but the idea may be abandoned.

Australia was scheduled to buy up to 30 fifth-generation fighters in the middle of this decade to replace aging Super Hornet jets. However, the Defence Department may bolster air combat capabilities not by buying F-35s but by upgrading the F/A-18F.

The upgrade would allow the Super Hornet to remain in operational service longer. Australia will still have to replace them sooner or later, but in the future the F-35 Lightning II will be joined by an alternative in the form of a sixth-generation fighter. Sixth-generation aircraft are being developed by the US; China; Japan, the UK and Italy; Spain, Germany and France.

The composition of the Royal Australian Air Force will be determined by the national defence strategy. Specialists will assess all available options that will meet the country’s needs. At the same time, the Strategic Defence Review did not mention the purchase of the F-35. But the document specified the role of F/A-18F, which will be armed with long-range AGM-158C LRASM anti-ship missiles.

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