|Australia buys more fighter jets
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Wednesday the purchase of 58 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters costing AU$12.4 billion in a major defence upgrade to maintain Australia's regional edge.
The new aircraft will bring Australia's total JSF force to 72, with the first due to arrive in 2018 and enter service in 2020, AFP reports.
The deal with US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin includes an option to buy a further 18 planes and is additional to the purchase of 14 F-35s Australia already approved in 2009.
"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,'' Abbott said.
"It will also be a very substantial boost to jobs and technology here in Australia.''
Abbott said the planes would cost about US$90 million each but noted that one of the largest defence purchases Australia has ever made was budgeted for.
"This is not new money, it's money successive governments have carefully put aside to ensure that our nation's defences are strong,'' he said.
"It will ensure our edge as a regional power.''
Abbott said the F-35 will "provide a major boost to the Australian Defence Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities''.
"The acquisition of F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including regional areas and local defence industry,'' he added.
The prime minister said some 700 F-35 tailfins would be made at a factory in Victoria and the US-led JSF programme offered Australian manufacturing companies the potential to earn an additional AU$7.5 billion.
The government will also consider an option to buy another squadron of 18 F-35s to replace the air force's fleet of ageing F/A-18 Super Hornets which are due for retirement from 2022.