An Australian defense spokesperson has confirmed that the country will accept delivery of its first F-35 Lightning II fighter on Thursday. Australia plans to purchase 72 F-35s, joining the United Kingdom, Japan, and six other nations partnered with the U.S. in the production of the fifth-generation fighter program.
The purchase of the F-35, according to Australia’s defense force statement, will complement the Royal Air Force’s current use of F-18 Hornets.
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The first F-35 will arrive in Australia in late 2018, the statement said, adding that new facilities and infrastructure worth $1.5 billion will be built to support the jets at Williamtown and Tindal.
The defense force’s website says Australia will form three operational F-35A squadrons, one at Tindal and two at Williamtown, which will also host a training squadron. The first F-35 squadron will be operational in 2021, and all 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.
In the future, a fourth operational squadron will be considered for Amberley, for a total of about 100 F-35A’s, the website states.
“The F-35A’s combination of stealth, advanced sensors, networking and data fusion capabilities, when integrated with other defence systems, will enable the RAAF to maintain an air combat edge,” the website states.