America’s new secretary of defence James Mattis has reassured Australia of his support for the future of the Joint Strike Fighter program.
Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne spoke with Mr Mattis on Thursday morning, congratulating him on his recent appointment and expressing Australia’s keenness to work closely on the countries’ shared interests.
“Secretary Mattis reiterated his strong support for the Joint Strike Fighter program as a key strategic capability for the United States and key allies across the globe,” Mr Pyne told parliament during a ministerial statement.
They also discussed the recently-announced price drop of lot 10 of the F-35A fighter jet to below $100 million.
“For Australia this is hugely significant and represents a 25 per cent reduction from the price of the fighter in 2014, showing the program is on track in terms of delivery and efficiency,” he said.
Labor’s defence spokesman Richard Marles labelled Mr Mattis’ support for the JSF program “good news” for Australia.
US President Donald Trump late last year slammed the program, saying costs were “out of control”.
Australia plans to buy 72 jets to replace the ageing FA-18A/B Classic Hornets, with the first expected to enter service from late 2018.
The first two are set to make their Australian debut at an airshow in Melbourne in March.
Source: 9 News