Canberra to review F-35 delivery schedule

Singapore
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Australia could review the delivery timetable for the 12 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft it is due to receive between 2015 and 2017.

Speaking to journalists in Canberra, Australian Minister of Defence Stephen Smith said the timetable will be renewed following recent comments by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta. On 26 January, Panetta said US procurement of the F-35 during the next five years will be further slowed.

"The current schedule for the second 12 [F-35s] is 2015-2017," said Smith. "Just as in the last couple of days, my counterpart Leon Panetta has said that he is now giving consideration to changing the schedule of purchases so far as the United States is concerned, we will now give consideration to whether the timetable for the purchase of those 12 Joint Strike Fighters should occur on the same timetable."

Smith added that Canberra is legally bound to receive its first two F-35s in 2014. These aircraft will be stationed in the USA and be used to train Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) air and ground crews.

No decision has been made on whether to buy more Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, he said. In August 2011, Smith said a comprehensive review of the F-35 programme would be undertaken in late 2011.

Canberra has indicated it could order up to 100 F-35s, but so far has only committed to 14 examples of the conventional take-off and landing variant. The F-35A is due to replace Australia's F/A-18A/B Hornets.

In late 2011, the RAAF received the final four Super Hornets from a 24-aircraft order placed in 2007 owing to delays in the F-35 programme.