Aussie suppliers could suffer over JSF delays

The government’s decision to delay the purchase of 12 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) by two years could harm a number of Australian manufacturers involved in supply contracts for the US-based project.

The Australian reported on Tuesday that US defence giant Lockheed Martin, who runs the JSF project, said that a decrease in international orders for the stealth fighter, including from Australia, will hit suppliers hard.

The news is a further blow for the Australian defence community, which was served with $5.4 billion of budget cuts earlier this month.

At the time, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said a number of ‘lower-priority’ capability projects already approved by the government would be either deferred or cancelled, contributing $1.3 billion back in to the budget.

The decision not to purchase 12 of the JSF vehicles for another two years will save the government $900,000, he said.

Australian companies involved in the JSF project include Brisbane’s Ferra Engineering, which signed a multi-million-dollar contract in 2010 to manufacture and assemble weapon adaptor assembly components for the JSF.

Melbourne-based Lovitt Technologies Australia was also awarded a five-year contract in 2009 to supply components for each of the three F-35 variants.

Adelaide-based defence and aerospace component manufacturer, Levett Engineering, also signed a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract in 2009 to supply complex titanium and aluminium airframe components for the JSF. The contract was to run from 2010 to 2016.

Perth’s Quickstep Holdings last year signed a Long Term Agreement (LTA) to manufacture $700 million worth of parts for the international JSF program over the next 20 years.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said:  “Manufacturers will certainly be concerned by the significant cuts that have been made to defence spending, especially delays to the JSF.”