May 18, 2014
Australia could buy F-35B to base aboard new landing ships
Defence Minister told tha the Government was considering buying the "B" model of the F-35, the variant of the stealth jet being built to operate from aircraft carriers.
Last month, Australia committed to buying 72 of the conventional model F-35s and left the door open to buying more F-35s. The minister says the F-35B will be considered.
The F-35B has a shortened take-off distance and can land vertically. The Royal Navy and the US Marines are buying the F-35B to station aboard aircraft carriers.
Australia is soon to bring into service two large ships called landing helicopter docks. Though they resemble small aircraft carriers, the Government has maintained until now they would be used only to deploy helicopters and troops.
Stationing the F-35 aboard an LHD would be costly and technically challenging, but it could be done.
Last australian aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, was mothballed in 1982.
The B variant has been the most trouble-plagued of the three F-35 models. Testing was stalled this year after cracks were discovered in the aircrafts' bulkheads.
The F-35 will replace Australia's fleet of F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet aircraft, due to be withdrawn in 2022.