The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has accepted the delivery of an additional seven F-35A fighter aircraft at RAAF Base Williamtown from the US.

The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter programme will provide the RAAF with a fifth-generation combat capability.

Australia Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said: “This brings the total number of F-35A’s that are operating at RAAF Base Williamtown to 13, with another five aircraft based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, US.

“This is the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world, which will deliver next-generation capability benefits and provide a major boost to air combat capability.”

The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) is planning to purchase a total of 72 F-35s under the programme.

The government has approved the procurement of the final 24 aircraft in the acquisition plan.

In October, Pentagon reached a $34bn block buy deal with Lockheed Martin for the manufacturing and supply of 478 F-35 combat aircraft.

The DoD announced that the government has signed up for this deal, which will reduce the acquisition cost of each aircraft.

Reynolds added: “The deal is great news for Australia with the unit price now 5% below the estimate at government approval in 2014.

“The F-35A is a key part of the Morrison Government’s A$200bn ($136.81bn) investment in Defence capability, which includes investing in next-generation air combat capability for Australia.”

The 72 aircraft will be shared by three operational squadrons at RAAF bases Williamtown and Tindal, and a training squadron at Williamtown.

The RAAF took delivery of the first F-35 in December last year. The service expects all aircraft to become operational by 2023.

The government will consider the purchase of 28 more fighters in future.