CANBERRA, Australia, April 23 (UPI) -- The Australian government is to acquire dozens more of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
The approved acquisition of 58 F-35s brings the number ordered by Australia so far to 72.
“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,” a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defense said.
“Together with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge. The F-35 will also provide a major boost to the ADF’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.”
The total capital cost of about $11.9 billion has been set aside for the acquisition. That figure includes the cost of associated facilities, weapons and training.
F-35 aircraft are expected to arrive in Australia beginning in 2018. They will begin operational service two years later, replacing the country’s F-18s.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 program is proving a benefit to Australia with increasing numbers of local companies participating in the production of components for the fighter.
Australia says more than $1 billion will be spent on building new facilities and infrastructure for operating the planes.