Australia Jacks Up Air Combat Power, Allots $12B for Purchase of 58 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters

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Australia has allotted more than $12 billion from the national coffers for the purchase of 58 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as the Abbott government jacks up the country's air combat power and resources to a total of 72 fighter jets by 2020.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott will formally announce the procurement on Wednesday.

"We said we would work for a safer and more secure Australia," Jamie Briggs, assistant minister for infrastructure, told Sky News, noting the purchase confirms what the coalition had committed in their election campaign. "Having a strong defence force with modern equipment that it needs to do the job that Australian expects is absolutely part of that."

Mr Abbott said the JSF will make a vital contribution to Australia's national security.

"Together with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge," he said. "The F-35 will provide a major boost to the ADF's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities."

Moreover, the aircraft acquisition will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including regional areas and local defence industry, he added.

Also known as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the first JSF will arrive in 2018 and begin service with the RAAF in 2020. The new jets will replace the ageing F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, scheduled to be withdrawn from service by 2022.

Authorities at the Newcastle's Williamtown RAAF base rejoiced over the big news. It has been reported that the base will acquire the bulk of the new JSF jets.

"This is good news on a number of fronts, it modernises and provides the ultimate capability for our defence force," the Federal Member for Paterson Bob Baldwin told ABC.

"For our local region it means an upgrading of Williamtown RAAF base and that will involve many jobs in our region, and thirdly, it involves local contractors, like Varley, who provide component parts for the Joint Strike Fighter, so this is a win all around."

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