Australia Buys 58 More F-35s

f-35b-invertedAustralia announced Tuesday it will buy 58 more F-35s at a cost of $12.4 billion to build their fleet of fifth generation fighters to 72.

The purchase agreement offered a boost to the Joint Strike Fighter program a week after it was announced the costs increased by $7.4 billion at a time the U.S. expect costs to drop.

Australia’s decision to stick to the plan and increase their planned buy beyond the 14 F-35s the Australians agreed to buy in 2009 offers hope to the Joint Strike Fighter. Earlier this year and in 2013, rumors have circled that countries like Denmark and Canada are looking at other options and possibly leaving the F-35 program.

If allies pull out of the program, the costs sky rocket as the Joint Strike Fighter program was always justified as a program that will benefit from the efficiency of scale. Without the scale of multiple countries buying the aircraft, the costs go up and more countries leave the program.

This summer should prove to be an important time for the F-35’s international portion of the program with the plan to fly the F-35 at the Farnborough Air Show outside London in July. This will be the first time the F-35 has flown outside the U.S.

Many assume the U.S. chose to show off the F-35 at Farnborough in order to boost confidence in the program and keep allies like Australia on board.

Of course there are others that say the U.S. got tired of watching Russian fighters last year at the Paris Air Show and plan to one up Vladimir Putin with the F-35.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Andy

    How can it be stealth if you mount the missile under the wing ?

  • Tad

    It seems surprising that the Aussies would be interested in a strike aircraft with such a limited range.

    • William_C1

      Limited range compared to what? Unfortunately there really isn’t a true successor to the F-111 on the market. Even the F-15E which replaced it in USAF service didn’t have the same reach.

    • blight_

      If they want range, there’s always maritime patrol aircraft with anti-ship missiles and tankers to refuel CAP. Not sure what the Australian plan to deploy long range strike aircraft over water is for, outside of sea control.

      • tiger

        You want range to reach your only local foes in Indonesia. The round distance from
        Darwin to Jakarta is 3420 miles by air.

    • Jim

      Self defense? To be deployed on coalition missions?

  • Teacher

    Okay. So what’s the amount of kickbacks, subsidies, and closed-door deals?

  • Too bad we don’t even have a operational JSF yet and so they spend money on nothing for now.

  • Virgil Cuttaway

    The F-35 is so vastly overrated.

    • peters

      That’s an understatement.

      It’s a potent money grabbing tool against the fools though.

  • Matt

    A sad day for Australia :(

  • hibeam

    We are lucky to have allies like the Aussies. I hope we don’t let them down.

  • Big-Dean

    the Aussies must’ve been “down under’ the table when they thought this up

  • MacPaul

    Wrong plane (not only for Australia) at a forbiddingly high cost (good for the industry, though. Well, that’s what this is about, of course).

    Instead, it would have been better to develop a A-22 – maybe two seater like F-15E – for deep strike mission and the like and then build the same amount of aircrafts as the F-35 for a fraction of the costs.

  • Rob C.

    Which model are they ordering? They just recently started deliveries of their new LHDs.

  • tiger

    The RAN is not looking to get into carrier air again. The LHD’s are chopper only , yet retain a 13 degree bow ski ramp. The only real down side, is you give up parking area forward.

    • blight_

      It probably would’ve cost too much to simply delete the ramp, vs ordering a production-ready Juan Carlos.

  • “Australia Buys 58 More F-35s” is incorrect.

  • PolicyWonk

    If true, this might be an indication that there is something potentially useful in the F-35. The Aussies tend to be pretty careful with their money, and have a reputation for doing their homework – so it is possible they are getting access to information regarding the F-35 that is well beyond that that has been published publicly.

    Or, they’re being given a far better deal than the ones reported to US taxpayers.

    The costs of the program are still prohibitive, and I’ve seen nothing that indicates that the F-35’s performance is any better than generation sub-4th-generation fighter, but still has a cost profile of a 6th generation aircraft.

  • cafed

    The Australian buy is exactly what they’ve planned for a the last decade. The price they’re paying is about the same as the Super Hornet they recently bought..

    What else would people want to be flying in 2030–2050.

  • frisky

    The comments section on this website is possibly the worst I have ever come across. Full of “f-u, and ” this is the worst idea ever” comments without offering one iota of an alternative. You people should honestly get a life. Bn girl, tiger and dfens I’m talking about you.

  • Rob

    They may want to expedite. Russia’s Navy is mysteriously on the move globally

    • blight_

      Land-based F-35’s will make the Russian Navy quake in their boots, yeah…

      As noted by someone else, RAN has problems keeping its subs fully manned, and that might be a bigger problem when it comes to the Russian Navy.

  • HeavyArrow

    >come to read an interesting article
    >come for interesting feedback by users
    >instead feedback is
    >F-35 sucks
    >Overpriced piece of junk
    I came for insightful comments, not your two cents if you like the airplane or not.

  • SJE

    Part of me thinks that Australia sees the F35 as dead, but can (1) gets quick and cheap points with the USA by promising to come to the party that it knows will never be held (2) gets to look tough with a promise to have the most advanced technology
    (3) gets to deflect attention from the problems with the search for MH370. Yes, the fault was with Malaysia, but China came in and threatened to steal the show for a while. Too many Australian military assets are based on the East Coast.

  • matheusdiasuk

    F35, the anglosphere fighter.

  • Fluoro Ninja

    A sad day for Australia.

    We should be buying the Gripen NG. For less than the reported purchase price of an F-35 we could buy and fly a Gripen for 30 years. To put it another way, the 75 F-35s we’re looking to procure could fund a fleet of 175 Gripens… with the Gripen fleet costing about $4.5 billion dollars less over an estimated 30 year service life.

    I haven’t forgotten about strike capability. The RAAF would have to give up thoughts of fulfilling the long range strike role. That would transfer to Navy via the use of submarine launched cruise missiles. AFAIK the Collins class can’t launch Tommahawks… but the US Virginia class can. To my way of thinking a fleet of 8 Virginia class boats would more than meet the requirements of Australia’s next generation submarine project.

    Then we’d have a very credible mix of capabilities: submarine strike to remind people to behave themselves, and a large force of potent air to air fighters if they choose not to behave.

    Firmly into the realms of fantasy here… but would it be inconceivable to fit out one of our new Canberra class LHDs with recovery cables to allow a squadron of Sea Gripens? As much as I like the idea of the F-35B, it’s just too expensive for us ever to purchase it on the back of 70 conventional JSFs. The Gripen is cheap enough to buy and run that these options are a possibility.