The Australian government has elected to axe a proposal which would have put F-35 fighter jets on the Australian Navy’s 27,000-ton transport assault ships.
According to The Australian Financial Review, the proposal, which was spearheaded by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, was shot down ahead of the government’s defense white paper after it was discovered that the cost and repairs required for the project would be too much.
The white paper is a significant document for the Australian government as it contains the Abbott administration’s 20-year vision for defending the country. The document, which asks for more than $275 billion in weapons, is expected to be released in August.
In May of 2014, Abbott asked defense planners to look into the possible placement of up to 12 of the short-take-off and vertical landing F-35 Bs on the Australian Navy’s largest two ships. The two vessels carry helicopters and will likely be used to transport troops and equipment to war or disaster zones.
The first of the two assault ships was completed last year and was placed into the Australian Navy’s ship rotation in November as HMAS Canberra.
The proposal began to fold last year when Australian defense officials acknowledged to a Senate estimates committee that the plan would involve vast upgrades to the ship. The upgrades would have included new radar systems, heat-resistant decking, instrument landing systems, restricting of fuel storage and fuel lines, and storage hangers.
A source close to the white paper told The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday that the proposal “will now not make the cut.” The comment came just weeks after various other sources told the publication that the proposal was “still in the white paper mix.”
“There were just too many technical difficulties involved in modifying a ship which takes helicopters to take fighter jets and it is also very expensive," the source said. "You can safely say it has been dropped."
Had the proposal been approved, Australia would have joined the United States, Great Britain, and various other countries which plan to run F-35s off of assault ships.