The Tindal RAAF Base is to receive 16 of the new super-stealthy and super expensive F-35A Lightning aircraft.
With a price tag of about $116 million apiece, the total purchase price of the frontline fighter jets at Tindal will approach $2 billion.
The Department of Defence has moved to clarify media reports on the weekend that Tindal would receive 24 of the new US-made planes.
There were suggestions the new F-35A aircraft would start to arrive later this year, but Defence says Tindal is scheduled to take delivery from early 2022 “to reach its full squadron size by 2023”.
Tindal is in the middle of an almost billion dollar upgrade to be ready to receive the expensive new jets.
Australian has bought 72 F-35A Lightning II aircraft to replace the current fleet of 71 ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets.
Australia will have a training squadron and two operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and a third operational squadron at RAAF Base Tindal.
An operational squadron comprises 16 aircraft.
“RAAF Base Tindal is scheduled to take delivery of F-35A aircraft from early 2022 to reach its full squadron size by 2023,” a defence spokesman said.
“The total approved budget for the Australian F-35A project is $17.14 billion.
“This includes the cost of the 72 F-35A aircraft, as well as support systems, including information systems support, training, weapons and contingency funding.
“The total approved budget also includes $1.5 billion for F-35 facilities at RAAF Bases Williamtown and Tindal, and other forward operating and support bases. Contracted production costs have been reducing annually by 3–4 per cent, with further gains expected as production volume increases.
“Based on current projections and exchange rates, the average unit recurring fly-away for an Australian F-35A is expected to be approximately $115.7 million.
“Unit recurring fly-away price refers to the unit price of an aircraft delivered from the production line, including the air-vehicle and engine.”