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Australia considering options for future fighters

Australia procured 24 F/A-18Fs from 2010 as an interim acquisition owing to delayed Lockheed Martin F-35 deliveries. (Commonwealth of Australia)

Australia has said it is considering a “variety of options” for its future fighter aircraft requirements.

The Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF's) fighter force includes three squadrons, comprising two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II squadrons and one Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet squadron.

To strengthen future air combat capability, Australia has been considering the acquisition of a further batch of 30 F-35s to replace the Super Hornets under Project Air 6000 Phase 6 in the mid-2020s.

However, the Department of Defence (DoD) has also indicated that the requirement could be met by continued upgrades to its F/A-18F fleet. This move could also prompt the RAAF to replace the Super Hornets at a later date with a different fifth- or sixth-generation platform.

“There are a variety of options under consideration for the future air combat fleet,” an Australian DoD spokesperson told Janes . “The force mix will be shaped by Australia's national defence strategy [DSR], and all available options suited to Australian needs will be evaluated.”

Australia's Defence Strategic Review (DSR) does not mention an additional acquisition of F-35s. However, the document specified a continuing role for the F/A-18F fleet: to operate AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs). Australia's 2023–24 defence budget also indicates that F/A-18F deliverables (in flying hours) will continue at least until 2027.

“[The DoD] continues to undertake spiral upgrades of the RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet fleet,” the DoD spokesperson said. “The spiral upgrade programme provides ongoing capability assurance, including maintaining interoperability with the US and allies.”

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