| SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, April 23
SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, April 23 Australia will
announce plans on Wednesday to order 58 more F-35 fighter jets
built by Lockheed Martin Corp for A$12 billion ($11
billion), sources in Washington and Canberra told Reuters.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott will make the announcement of the
purchase around midday local time in the Australian capital,
Canberra, the sources said.
"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," Abbott is expected to
say on Wednesday.
"The F-35 will provide a major boost to the Australian
Defence Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
The 58 F-35 aircraft, in addition to 14 already approved in
2009, will provide the Royal Australian Air Force with enough
aircraft to form three operational squadrons and one training
squadron, the Canberra source said.
Australia was also also considering acquiring an additional
squadron of F-35 aircraft to replace its fleet of Boeing
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft, the source said.
Lockheed is currently negotiating a contract for an eighth
batch of jets with the U.S. Pentagon that does not include the
latest strike fighters for Australia.
Those jets would be part of a ninth or tenth batch to be
ordered next year and the year after.
The total cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is
now seen at $1.42 trillion, including research, development,
procurement and operations through 2065.
Local media in Australia said the joint strike fighters
would raise its air combat power to among the world's most
As part of the announcement around A$1.6 billion in new
facilities and infrastructure will be built in Australia, the
government source said.
($1 = 1.0677 Australian Dollars)
(Additional reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Editing by