CANBERRA May 3 Australia committed to long-term
plans to buy up to 100 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter
jets in a new defence blueprint released on Friday, helping to
ease concerns about the future of the controversial stealth
Canberra, a close U.S. ally, would also buy 12 Boeing Co
EA-18G electronic attack planes, modified versions of the
24 Super Hornets already equipping Australia's air force, as a
stopgap for the F-35, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said.
"This important decision will assure a first-class air
combat capability for Australia through the transition period to
the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35), which will proceed on its
current schedule," Smith said.
The new defence white paper is the first reassessment of
Australia's military priorities since 2009, and the first since
the U.S. pivot to the Asia-Pacific began in late 2011, which
included U.S. Marine rotations through northern Australia.
The paper makes no commitment to build a fourth advanced air
warfare destroyer, partly built by BAE Systems and
Spain's Navantia, but opts instead to replace two ageing supply
Smith also said the government would proceed with plans for
12 new conventional submarines but he ruled out buying the
submarines off the shelf, opting instead for new designs to be
built in Australia.