CANBERRA, Australia, April 6 (UPI) -- Australia's opposition Labor Party is pressing the government to buy U.S.-made F/A-22 Raptors instead of cheaper U.S.-British Joint Strike Fighters.
The government currently plans to buy as many as 100 JSFs, but Labor argues buying a smaller number of the F/A-22 stealth planes would better meet Australia's combat air power needs after retirement of F-111 fighter-bombers in 2010.
"In so far as cost has been a major issue in the decision to purchase the JSF over the F/A-22, it appears that the cost differential between the two aircraft is significantly less than anticipated," The Australian Thursday quoted the advance text of a speech by Labor defense spokesman Robert McClellan.
McClellan noted the JSF was still in development so the final cost, as well as delivery date, estimates could not be relied upon.
Australia plans to buy up to 100 JSF aircraft at an estimated fly-away cost per plane of about (U.S.) $45 million. But McClellan noted a U.S. government audit report said initial production costs could actually climb to as much as $137 million. The cost to Australia for the F/A-22 Raptor now in production is estimated at about $153 million per plane.