22 Juni 2010

Australian JSF Fighter to Cost $60m

22 Juni 2010

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (photo : Australian Aviation)

Fighter Jets 'to Cost $70m Each'

Australia will pay around $US60 million ($A70 million) each for advanced Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft and all bugs will be fully sorted by the time the first aircraft arrive, the head of the JSF program says.

Lockheed Martin JSF program general manager Tom Burbage, in Canberra to update the government and Defence on JSF progress, said he could guarantee the price would not be as high as the claimed $US133 million per aircraft.

"Australia is buying the airplane with 2014-15 deliveries and then on out for a number of years. The airplanes will be bought on an annual basis initially so the cost in each year will be slightly different and will go down with time," he told ABC Television.

Mr Burbage said Australia was buying the conventional takeoff and landing version, the least expensive of the three JSF variants.

"In today's dollars it looks like it will be right around $US60 million ($A70 million)," he said.

Mr Burbage said JSF was planned to enter service with the US Marine Corps in 2012, two years before the first Australian aircraft is even built and four years before the first JSF comes to Australia.

"They will have the bugs worked out long before that. Our test program runs until about 2014 but the last two years of that is primarily qualifying different weapons for the airplane," he said.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning JSF is an advanced stealth multi-role combat aircraft that will be the mainstay of US and allied air forces to around mid-century.

Australia will acquire up to 100 aircraft, with the first entering service in 2018. This will cost about $A16 billion, making it Australia's most expensive ever equipment acquisition.

The JSF project has faced frequent criticism that the aircraft will be expensive, will arrive late and won't be as good as initially promised.

Mr Burbage said JSF was meeting all performance standards and would far exceed the capability of much vaunted Russian and Chinese aircraft.
"I don't believe their level of capability approaches the levels that we are putting in these aircraft. We'll see," he said.

"They are certainly not in production like we are. In order to be an adversarial force, you have got to build the airplanes in some numbers. They are not at that stage by any means yet."

(Sidney Morning Herald)

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