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Australia taking delivery of first F-35, plans to buy 72

Australia will take delivery of its first F-35 Lightning II on Thursday from Lockheed Martin in Texas, according to an Australian Defence Force spokesman.

Australia — which plans to buy 72 F-35s — is among several close allies, including the United Kingdom and Japan, which plan to purchase the advanced combat jet despite a string of safety issues, including a recent engine fire that forced the plane to skip this month’s Farnborough Airshow in southern England.

The United States is supposed to build almost 2,500 of the jets. Nine partner countries, including Australia, are involved in its production.

On Monday, the Australian Defence Force released a draft statement on the likely environmental impact of F-35 flight operations and invited members of the community to comment.

The draft statement compares expected impact of the F-35s to that of the F-18 Hornets already in service with the Royal Australian Air Force, according to a defense force statement.

The Australian F-35s will fly out of RAAF bases Williamtown in New South Wales state and Tindal in the Northern Territory. The aircraft will visit other RAAF bases in Darwin, Pearce, Amberley, Townsville and Edinburgh for training.

The first F-35 will arrive in Australia in late 2018, the statement said, adding that new facilities and infrastructure worth $1.5 billion will be built to support the jets at Williamtown and Tindal.

The defense force’s website says Australia will form three operational F-35A squadrons, one at Tindal and two at Williamtown, which will also host a training squadron. The first F-35 squadron will be operational in 2021, and all 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

In the future, a fourth operational squadron will be considered for Amberley, for a total of about 100 F-35A’s, the website states.

“The F-35A’s combination of stealth, advanced sensors, networking and data fusion capabilities, when integrated with other defence systems, will enable the RAAF to maintain an air combat edge,” the website states.

robson.seth@stripes.com

 

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