Jun 24, 2014
Australia reveals interest in F-35B
Canberra confirmed in April it will acquire 58 F-35A Lightning IIs for the Royal Australian Air Force, adding to the 14 already on order to replace the RAAF's Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornet.
Australia has long-stated a requirement for 100 air combat aircraft. However, because it acquired 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets in 2009-2010 as a bridging capability between the retirement of the General Dynamics F-111C and the introduction of the F-35A, it has deferred a decision on Phase 2C of the project until the early- to mid-2020s.
The F-35B proposal is being pushed by Abbott’s office, and if acquired the aircraft would be fielded from the Royal Australian Navy’s two new LHD-class vessels – the first of which is to be commissioned as HMAS Canberra later this year.
The two 27,000t LHDs currently under construction in Melbourne, Victoria are based on Spain’s King Juan Carlos 1 (L-61) vessel, built by Navantia. When ordered, the LHDs were intended for amphibious and regional humanitarian assistance missions. They have capacity for a battalion of troops, up to 100 vehicles, four large amphibious watercraft and a dozen or more helicopters to be embarked for such missions.
There has long been an intention to conduct operational ‘cross-decking’ operations with US Marine Corps and UK Royal Navy fixed and rotary-wing aircraft.
HMAS Canberra will be followed by HMAS Adelaide in 2016.