F-35 joint strike fighters make Australian debut

Canberra, Feb 28 (IANS) The Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighters (JSFs) have arrived in Australia for the first time, a media report said on Tuesday.

The JSFs arrived overnight in preparation for their public debut at the Avalon Airshow in Victoria later during the week, Xinhua news agency said.

The F-35 was widely criticised by military experts and politicians over the last few years, as the programme was plagued by delays and cost blowouts since it was first announced in 2001.

The F-35s arrived at the Amberley Air Force Base just outside of Brisbane late on Monday, and were expected to fly down to Geelong in Victoria where the air show was set to take place from Friday.

Australia has committed to purchasing at least 72 of the jets despite doubts over the future of the JSF program.

US President Donald Trump had publicly criticised the American aerospace, defence, security and advanced technologies company for the “cost overruns” of the jet program.

The jets would be formally welcomed by Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne at the air show.

The jets were only expected to debut in service in 2020.

The cost of Australia’s 72 aircraft was expected to hit $13 billion, while four Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilots were currently undergoing training on the jets in the US.

The F-35s were expected to replace the ageing FA-18 Hornets currently in service with the RAAF.

–IANS

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