SURRY HILLS, Australia, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Australia is seeking to buy 24 more F-18 Super Hornet aircraft in a deal that would double the size of the Australian air force F-18 fleet.
Boeing builds the Super Hornets and the Australian air force already has 24 of the jets.
Australia's Ministry of Defense is concerned about a capability gap if the increasingly expensive Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are delayed.
Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith said that possibility led the government was looking at the longer-term use of the F-18 Super Hornets, The Australian reported Friday.
The newspaper said the government had formally requested whether the United States would agree to sell Australia two dozen more F-18s.
Smith noted that the letter would simply open the way for approval under the U.S. foreign military sales process should the F-18 Hornets be needed, and as a simple letter of inquiry, would not commit Australia to buying the aircraft.
Smith concluded, "...people look more generally at the longer-term utility of Super Hornets... in combination with the Joint Strike Fighter."