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Taking wing: time to decide on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

By Andrew Davies and Harry White

The government is about to make a decision on whether to spend between $8 and 10 billion of taxpayer’s money on the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It’s also an important call because it will cement the F-35 as the main instrument of Australian air-power for decades into the future.

The F-35 has a troubled past—management issues and the enormous complexity of the project have caused significant cost and schedule overruns. But now it seems to be on track to come into service with the RAAF in 2020, and to be a very capable aircraft.

The other option is a further purchase of less-advanced Super Hornets, which would come with a marginally lower price tag. But that choice would come at a cost to Canberra’s relationship with Washington as we pulled out of the US-run program, and provide less capability in a region replete with rapid military modernisation.