Australia committed to F-35 fighter jets despite Trump criticism: DM
Canberra, Dec 13 (IANS) The Australian government remains committed to the contentious Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme despite criticism from US President-elect Donald Trump, the nation’s Defence Industries Minister Christopher Pyne said on Tuesday.
Australia has invested heavily in the F-35 JSF programme, with two of the fighter jets currently on order with 16 options likely to be taken up over the next three years at $90 million apiece, Xinhua news agency reported.
Overnight, President-elect Trump criticised the Lockheed Martin-led project, describing its costs and delays as “out of control”.
“The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after (my inauguration on) Jan. 20th, 2017,” Trump posted to social media.
But Pyne, who oversees Australia’s delivery of defence projects, said the Australian government was committed to seeing the F-35 JSF project through to the end even if Trump wants to scrap the plan in the United States.
“Whether it has been efficiently managed from the United States’ point of view in terms of their costs and delays is really a matter for them … it’s perfectly fine for (Trump) to have that opinion,” Pyne told the Australian press.
“How he wants to manage the actual delivery of the programme is a matter for him and for his incoming administration.”
Pyne added he would be surprised if Trump decided to scrap the plan entirely, considering a “great deal of money has been invested in it”.
The F-35 JSF programme has been widely criticised since its inception. Some experts have said early designs had critical flaws, while it has also been described as being billions of US dollars over-budget and years behind schedule.