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Lockheed Martin has delivered the next three F-35A Joint Strike Fighters for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

The Australian Department of Defence has accepted delivery of the latest batch of three F-35 aircraft that will join the two existing units.

The first two F-35s, designated AU-1 and AU-2 for the RAAF, were rolled out in July 2014.

Australian Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said: “Australia now has five aircraft at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, USA, where our pilots are currently training. Five more aircraft are scheduled for delivery by the end of 2018.

“More than 50 Australian companies have directly shared in more than A$1bn in production contracts to date, providing further opportunities to small and medium Australian businesses, which benefit through supply chain work.

“In 2016, the F-35 Program supported more than 2,400 jobs across Australia, which is set to grow to 5,000 by 2023.”

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By GlobalData
"In 2016, the F-35 Program supported more than 2,400 jobs across Australia, which is set to grow to 5,000 by 2023."

Australia plans to acquire 72 F-35A conventional take-off and landing aircraft to replace the RAAF’s current fleet of 71 ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets.

According to Australia Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne, the three fifth-generation aircraft are equipped with F-35 programme’s final software system, which unlocks their full combat potential, including weapons, mission systems and flight performance.

Payne added: “The stealthy, advanced F-35A is a step change in the Australian Defence Force’s capabilities, giving Australia an edge against the emergence of advanced capabilities in our region.”

“Australia is the first international partner to accept jets with Block 3F capability, and this is another key step towards introducing the aircraft into service before its arrival in Australia in December this year.”