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Australia Has A Complicated Plan
by James Dunnigan
August 3, 2011

Australia recently received another three American F-18F fighters, bringing the total to 18. The first five F-18Fs arrived last year. All this is part of the Australian strategy to obtain American F-35s. It works like this. Two years ago, after over four years of deliberation, Australia decided to begin buying U.S. F-35 fighter-bombers. The first 14 were ordered, at a cost of over $100 million each (the price includes a lot of training and maintenance infrastructure). Eventually, Australia plans to buy about a hundred F-35s, to support a force of three, 24 aircraft each, squadrons.

The plan is to replace the existing force of F-111 bombers with F-35s, and then the aging F-18s. But four years ago, it was realized that it would take too long for the F-35s to arrive, and an interim aircraft would be needed.

The worn out, 1960s era F-111s, were finally retired last December, after 37 years of service. The F-35s will not arrive until 2018. Meanwhile, Indonesia is buying Russian Su-30 fighters. In response, Australia bought 24 American F-18F fighters, for about $100 million each (including spare parts, training and such). Australia already operates 72 of the older, and smaller, F-18B (which will be retired by the end of the decade). While the two versions of the F-18 have a lot in common (about 25 percent commonality in parts), the F-18F is a new, and larger, design that is based on the original F-18. The F-18F deliveries begin next year, and provide Australia with a high performance fighter-bomber that could cope with the Su-30. The F-18Fs will last into the 2020s.


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