Australia’s biggest defense expenditure ever of USD 15 billion to be used for purchasing 72 US F-35 fighter jets has triggered a debate, with some saying that the planes are not worth the high costs, local press reports say.
Australia has committed to purchasing the F-35 combat aircraft from the US, which itself is spending 1 trillion dollars on the biggest defense program in its history.
However, Pentagon’s inspector general has identified 719 specific problems with the aircraft, ranging from minor to mission-critical. Colonel Michael W. Pietrucha, from the United States Air Force, told the Air and Space Power Journal that the F-35 continues to arrive late and cost more than anticipated.
“Budgetary realities should serve as an impetus to reexamine the Air Force’s participation in the F-35 program and the future of the fighter force,” Pietrucha said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Thomson, an analyst at the government-funded Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said that Australia’s choice of fighters from the international market was limited.
“The alternative to the F35, is a previous generation aircraft designed 15 or 20 years before the F35,” he said. “If Australia wants an up-to-date aircraft that would see it through the next two decades, it was the only choice, but yes, it does cost a lot of money.”
Thomson said there were some people critical of the aircraft’s performance but the problems were up to the US to address.