Australia to buy 58 US F-35s for $11.6bn
This undated image obtained on April 22, 2009 courtesy of the Joint Strike Fighter program site, shows the F-35 JSF
The new aircraft will bring Australia's total JSF force to 72 aircraft, with the first due to arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service in 2020.
"The F-35 will provide a major boost to the Australian Defence Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement released late Tuesday.
The deal is in addition to 14 F-35s Australia already approved in 2009.
"The acquisition of F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including regional areas and local defence industry," Abbott added.
The government, which was to make a formal announcement on the deal later Wednesday, will also consider an option to buy another squadron of F-35s to replace the air force's fleet of F/A-18 Super Hornets.
The JSF has been touted as a technological wonder but has suffered setback after setback with a budget blown out to US$390 billion and seven years behind schedule, making it the costliest weapons programme in US history.
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