Australia does not rule out the possibility of still acquiring up to 100 F-35 fighter aircraft as originally intended, although this number may be reduced to just three fourth with an option for the remaining one fourth.
Australia's commitment to the Lockheed Martin F-35 had been in doubt, especially after the acquisition of 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the possibility of another 12 F/A-18E/F and 12 EA-18G Growler aircraft.
These purchases make it unlikely Australia will still acquire all of the 100 F-35 fighters. However, in the White Paper, only the purchase of 12 EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft from Boeing is confirmed.
Australia would become the only country outside of the United States to operate the Growler. The cost of these aircraft is estimated at $1.5 billion and would take 4 years to complete.
These 12 together with the 24 F/A-18E/F already in service would be joined by the F-35, which is scheduled to enter squadron service in 2020. By 2030, the Super Hornet could be replaced by exercising the option for the remaining F-35 jets.
Other notable highlights of the White Paper include:
- Australia still seeks to build up to 12 diesel-electric submarines. These will either be derived from the Collins class or an entirely new submarine design. Australia will not consider existing submarine designs currently available as none of them fits Australia's needs.
- The acquisition of a fourth Air Warfare Destroyer will not be considered at this point. Australia is acquiring 3 Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyers, equipped with the Aegis system, with the first to be commissioned in 2016.
- Australia intends to buy around 7 maritime versions of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk / MQ-4C Triton for long-range surveillance to protect offshore resources.
- Australia will replace both the HMAS Sirius and HMAS Success with new supply ships.
- Australia will look for a replacement for the Armidale class patrol boats.
It's important to note that the policy laid out in a White Paper is not set in stone. A new government could opt for a new strategy, which will be laid out in a new White Paper.