Toured Lockheed Martin Plant Monday
Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has received
its fair share of criticism from US and British
lawmakers, for being overbudget... but you won't hear a
discouraging word about the plane from the land Down Under.
"This is the right aircraft," said Australia's Defense Minister,
Brendan Nelson, during a tour Monday of Lockheed Martin's plant in
Fort Worth, TX." It will serve Australia's needs for more than 30
years. It's also a good value for the money."
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports Australia plans to buy up
to 100 JSFs, at a total cost of about $15 billion, to replace it's
fleet of F-111s and early model F/A-18s.
Several subcontractors -- GKN Aerospace Engineering, Marand,
Adacel Technologies, Ferra Engineering Pty Ltd., and Production
Parts -- manufacture parts for the F-35 in Australia, one of eight
international partners working on the fighter.
Nelson spent more than
four hours the JSF assembly line, and meeting with company
representatives and US military officials. He also saw the first
production-spec JSF, which is undergoing testing before its first
flight this fall, said Lockheed spokesman John Kent.
"Lockheed Martin's presentation to me suggests that the aircraft
is on schedule for delivery to Australia in 2012," Nelson said.
A formal decision on Australia's purchase plans isn't expected
before 2008. To date, the aircraft hasn't received any orders from
any country -- including the US and Britain, who are expected to
order about 2,500 of the advanced fighter.