Australia’s Defence Industry minister Christopher Pyne has reaffirmed that Australia remains committed to buying the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter despite US President-elect Donald Trump’s recent comments saying its ‘”cost is out of control’”.
SKynews reported that Trump had a go at aircraft maker Lockheed Martin criticising them over Twitter on the program which has been plagued by delays and cost blow-outs.
“The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th,” hinting at a potential curbing of funding for the program after the day he becomes president.
However, from Australia’s point of view, Pyne defended Australia’s choice of the jet, telling Skynews that it (the F-35) was “the most potent weapon in the air” and he said that “the Joint Strike Fighter is the right jet for Australia and for the United States and the rest of the world.”
He dismissed concerns that the F-35 program may be under threat under a Trump administration, saying it was a long way down the road in terms of delivery and a lot of money had been spent on it.
‘Whether it has been efficiently managed from the United States’ point of view in terms of their cost and delays and so on is really a matter for them and for President-elect Trump’s opinion,’ Pyne told reporters.
To date, Australia plans to buy 72 of the advanced jets and perhaps as many as 100 to replace the ageing Hornets and Super Hornets and form the core of the RAAF’s air combat capability out to mid-century with the first two squadrons operational by 2020.
Pyne had added that Australia is “very committed” to the F-35 program as a partner nation and had just become the Asia-Pacific maintenance hub for the jet.