Australia to buy 12 Boeing jets as hedge against F-35 “risk”

Posted Friday, May. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Topics: F-35, Australia, Boeing



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Australia said Friday that it will buy 12 Boeing EA-18G Growler aircraft because it can’t risk delivery delays in their replacement, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter.

The government announced last year that its air force will equip 12 of Australia’s F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighters with Growler radar-jamming equipment and other gear.

But the reviewed defense strategy released Friday said the government now plans to buy 12 new Growlers and to keep Australia’s existing 24 Super Hornets as they are. Australia will be the only country other than the United States to operate Growlers, which are to be replaced eventually by F-35s.

“We’ve made decisions to protect our own air combat capability with the previous acquisitions of Super Hornets and now additional Growlers,” Defense Minister Stephen Smith told reporters.

“It is quite clearly the case on our one analysis but also on U.S. analysis that the joint strike fighter project … has improved, but there are still risks associated with that and we’re not prepared to … take the risk of a gap in our air combat capability or superiority,” he added.

The F-35 is made by Lockheed Martin in west Fort Worth.

Australia has not said when the new Growlers will be delivered. Smith said they will cost around $1.5 billion.

Australia plans to buy 14 F-35s for $3.2 billion and is contracted to buy two, which will be delivered in 2014 and 2015.

The government announced last year that it was pushing back delivery of most F-35s by two years to 2019 as a cost-cutting measure.

The F-35s will replace the Growlers and Super Hornets, which are expected to be retired around 2030. Smith said the first of three F-35 squadrons are scheduled to be delivered from 2020.

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