A move by the Government to cut its order of Joint Strike Fighter jets could hurt local manufacturers already committed to supply contracts for the aircraft, Lockheed executives say.
The Australian reports Lockheed Martin executives are in Australia to brief officials on the progress of developing the next generation aircraft.
Australia had previously committed to buying “around 100” new JSFs, but the Gillard Government has flagged buying a new round of Super Hornets due to delays in delivering the aircraft.
Setbacks in the JSF program previously led the Howard Government to purchase 24 Super Hornet fighter-bombers, and the Gillard Government is considering buying another 24.
The purchases could greatly reduce the number of JSFs needed by the RAAF, and Lockheed told The Australian the reduced order could impact the local economy.
Australian companies currently have $300 million worth of supply contracts for JSF parts, and Lockheed said the value would grow to over $5.5bn of manufacturing and maintenance work over the aircraft's 30-year life.
Lockheed said the work would create 23,000 jobs in Australia based on a full order of JSFs, but a reduced order could see less value created for local companies.
Despite Lockheed moving ahead with the program the JSF project has triggered a number of controversies both at home and abroad, with concerns raised over the aircraft's cost, timeline, and technical abilities.