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US approves cruise missile purchase for RAAF F-35s

written by Charbel Kadib | July 22, 2022

The US has approved a request from Australia to purchase 80 JASSM ER cruise missiles for $340 million.

The payload has a range of 925km and can be deployed from the RAAF’s F/A-18F Super Hornets or F-35A Lightning II fighter jets.

In a statement released on Thursday, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) rubber-stamped the deal, which also includes missiles containers and support equipment alongside technical support and training.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” the DSCA noted in a statement.

“Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region.

“It is vital to the US national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defence capability.”

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Australia’s request to purchase Lockheed Martin’s ‘Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles – Extended Range’ missiles is the latest of several foreign military orders for strike capability from the United States.

Last month, a US$94 million (AU$135.7 million) foreign military sale of advanced precision strike capability to Australia was approved by the US State Department.

Australian Aviation reported last year how the RAAF’s F-35s for the first time took to the skies with a full complement of weapons known as ‘beast mode’.

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More than 500 personnel and 50 took part in Exercise Arnhem Thunder 21.

In addition to their internal payload, the F-35s departed with laser-guided GBU-12 bombs attached to their under-wing pylons.

The bombs were dropped on ground-based targets at the Delamere Air Weapons Range, located about 120 kilometres south of Katherine.

During the course of the exercise, 10 F-35As normally based at RAAF Base Williamtown dropped more than 50 inert GBU-12s.

Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program — which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.

The F-35A — the variant chosen by the RAAF — will have a projected life of 30 years in service and will also be based at RAAF Base Williamtown.

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