Australia has dropped plans to operate Lockheed Martin F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) fighter aircraft for its Landing helicopter Ship (LHD) HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide.
According to a report published by Australian Financial Review, the proposal to operate F-35B STOVL fighter was dropped on the basis of cost and complexity and the number of modifications needed to LHDs. Prime Minister Tony Abbott had asked to evaluate operating the F-35B fighter from the LHDs as part of the Defense White Paper deliberations.
The Defense Minister David Johnston last year had confirmed operating F-35B from both the ships.
The recently commissioned HMAS Canberra and soon-to-be delivered HMAS Adelaide are designed to accommodate AV-8B Harrier STOVL which feature ski ramp. Both the LHDs will still require modifications that include new hear resistant deck treatments, approach landing aids and modifications to the ships’ aviation fuel storage to accommodate F-35Bs.
Australia therefore will only operate the standard F-35A variant, of which 72 are on order and two are currently used for training in the US.