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  (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Aussies will delay decision by two years

The Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter program has been hit with another significant blow. The Australian government has announced that it will delay the order of its first batch of F-35 Lightning II fighters in an effort to balance its own budget. The F-35 program has been under increasing pressure due to running long over the original delivery scheduled and over budget.
 
Australian defense minister Stephen Smith announced that a decision on when his country will take delivery of the 12 F-35 fighters for its first squadron would be pushed back by two years. Each time orders are reduced or cut; the cost for the remaining partners goes up.
 
However, Australia's two-year delay on making the decisions mirrors a decision made by the U.S. military on some of its purchases of the F-35. The U.S. maintains that it intends to purchase all the aircraft it originally asked for, but purchases could be delayed as issues with the fighter jets are worked out.
 
Smith said, "We are now essentially on the same time timetable for delivery of our first batch of joint strike fighters as the United States."
 
Australia isn't the only country considering reductions or eliminations in purchases of F-35 jets. The Canadian government recently imposed restrictions on the purchase of the F-35 after alleging that Parliament were misled on the true costs of the fighter aircraft.
 
The Canadian government has hinted on more than one occasion that orders could be canceled or reduced.
 
The U.S. delayed an order for 179 F-35 fighters by 5 years to allow for additional flight testing. The Netherlands has also announced that it will purchase less than its originally intended 85 F-35 fighters. Italy likewise announced that it would cut orders by 30% due to budget constraints. The remaining partners in the F-35 program in addition to the U.S. include Britain, Norway, Turkey, and Canada. 
 
In the long-term, Australia intends to buy 100 F-35 fighters at up to $16.4 billion, but no firm commitments have been made beyond the first 14 aircraft.
 
Recently, new estimates have pegged the lifetime cost of the F-35 at $1.45 trillion for the United States.

Source: Chicago Tribune





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