Australia to Buy 12 Boeing Electronic Warfare Aircraft

It's starting to look as if Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) will sell 12 more warplanes this year than it had planned for.

On Thursday, the Australian government released its latest white paper on defense spending plans for 2013. One key point of concern in the paper is Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT  ) F-35 fighter jet, which Australia is hoping to buy, but which has suffered some high-profile setbacks in recent years.

Up until now, the plan had been for the Royal Australian Air Force to convert 12 of its Boeing F/A-18F "Super Hornet" fighter jets into EA-18G "Growler" electronic warfare planes, and then spend $3.2 billion to buy 14 new F-35s to replace the converted fighters. However, sequester-related plans in the U.S. to reduce F-35 production mean Australia may not get the F-35s it wants, as quickly as it wants.

To hedge against continued delays, therefore, the RAAF has decided to leave its F-18s alone for the time being, and buy 12 new Growlers to provide the electronic warfare capability it needs. The purchase price has yet been settled, but news reports say the cost could be around $1.5 billion.

As for the F-35, Australia says it "remains committed to acquiring the fifth-generation JSF aircraft, with three operational squadrons planned to enter service beginning around 2020 to replace the F/A-18A/B Hornet aircraft."


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