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Australia chosen as F-35 regional hub

AAP logoAAP 8/11/2016 Max Blenkin and Roje Adaimy

Australia has been chosen to provide maintenance services for F-35 Lightning aircraft in the Asia-Pacific region in deals worth up to $100 million to the economy.

Local defence contractors will provide repair, overhaul and upgrade services for F-35 components including avionics, aircraft structures, electrics, landing gear and pilot life support.

This work will be performed by BAE Systems Australia, Northrop Grumman Australia, GE Aviation Systems Australia and RUAG.

Australia is one of four countries chosen by the US to be regional hubs for F-35 support services.

Australia already has been confirmed as the Asia-Pacific hub for engine repairs and the repair of airframes in the southern Pacific.

"It proves that we have significant defence industry capability," Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said on Tuesday.

Australia is buying 72 of the advanced F-35A Lightning aircraft and perhaps as many as 100 to form the core of the RAAF's air combat capability out to mid-century.

The RAAF plans to have the first two squadrons operational by 2020. The first aircraft don't arrive in Australia until 2018.

As more aircraft enter service, the US plans to roll out repair capabilities.

So far it has only assigned 65 of 774 repairable components - about eight per cent - with most work going to the UK and the Netherlands and just three going to Australia.

Beyond 2025, 64 of 65 components will come to Australia for repairs and the other to Korea.

Eventually all regional centres will repair all 774 components.

Mr Pyne said contracts needed to be finalised but it was estimated the initial work would be worth $80 million-$100 million, creating and sustaining hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.

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