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Australia boosts air power with $11.6 bln purchase of 58 F-35s

A model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is displayed during a press day of the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, in Goyang, north of Seoul, on October 28, 2013Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Wednesday the purchase of 58 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters costing Aus$12.4 billion ($11.6 billion) in a major defence upgrade to maintain Australia’s regional edge. The new aircraft will bring Australia’s total JSF force to 72, with the first due to arrive in 2018 and enter service in 2020. The deal with US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin includes an option to buy a further 18 planes and is additional to the purchase of 14 F-35s Australia already approved in 2009. Abbott said the planes would cost about $90 million each but noted that one of the largest defence purchases Australia has ever made was budgeted for.

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