(Adds Aust defence minister confirmation, quotes)
By Andrea Shalal and Matt Siegel
WASHINGTON/SYDNEY, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Australia has picked Britain’s BAE Systems to carry out heavy maintenance of Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jet in Australia from 2018 and Tasman Aviation Enterprises (TAE) to service its engines, its defence minister said on Tuesday.
Sources in the United States familiar with the decision, who were not authorised to speak publicly, had confirmed the deal to Reuters on Monday.
In December, the Pentagon announced that Australia would handle heavy maintenance for the jets and their engines in the southern Pacific, while Japan would handle that work in the northern Pacific. Heavy maintenance involves repairs that involve the structure of the airplanes or engines.
Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the deal demonstrated another economic benefit of the country’s participation in the stealth fighter program.
“The F-35 is the most advanced fighter aircraft in development or production anywhere in the world and securing this work in Australia is a great outcome for these companies,” Andrews said in a statement.
“The assignment of regional maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade responsibility to BAE and TAE will enable them to demonstrate the capability and capacity of Australian industry to support this leading edge capability.”
The companies were not named in December, but BAE was seen as the likely winner as it owns the depot where heavy maintenance of Boeing Co F/A-18 Hornets is performed.
Andrews described Tasman Aviation Corporation, which is located at an Australian Air Force base in Queensland state, as “a leading aerospace engine maintenance service provider”, working on both military and commercial aviation projects.
Details of the expected revenues for the companies were not contained in the announcement, but former Australian Defense Minister David Johnston in December said Australia’s defense industry could win more than $1.5 billion in F-35-related production and support work over the life of the program. (Additional reporting by Matt Siegel in Sydney; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry)