Australia signs deal to significantly increase its F-35 fleet

In addition to the order taking the country’s total F-35 fleet to 72 aircraft, Australia’s government also revealed that it plans to spend more than A$1.6bn on new facilities at two air bases in the states of New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the purchase would "ensure our edge as a regional power". He added the deal did not involve any new spending and would ensure that Australia’s defences remain strong.

"I want to stress that this is money that has been put aside by government over the past decade or so to ensure that this purchase can responsibly be made," Mr Abbott said.

Also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the F-35 is regarded as one of the world’s most advanced fighter jets, one that is designed to avoid being detected by radar, making it a key asset to have while trying to penetrate enemy defences.

Australia ordered its first batch of 14 F-35 jets in 2009, with the first of those aircraft are scheduled to enter service in 2020.