Australian former defence minister and Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley has been appointed to the board of Lockheed Martin Australia.
Beazley has backed the country’s decision to buy 72 F-35 fighter jets for $17 billion after joining the board of Lockheed Martin.
The joint strike fighter will give Australia a technological edge in the region and will improve the nation’s hi-tech manufacturing sector, Beazley was quoted as saying by The West Australian Thursday.
The JSF would have to work “because the United States has got no options,” he added.
Australia has pledged to buy 72 F-35 JSFs with the first two planes scheduled to be delivered in 2018. Up to 26 will be flying by 2020. But the project has been plagued by delays, budget blowouts and software deficiencies.
Mr Beazley acknowledged the project had had its problems but said the budget had stabilised and the computer problems were being overcome.
“The Americans have put their eggs in this basket and what does that mean? It means it works,” Mr Beazley told The West Australian.
“You will find that both Lockheed and the United States Government will put the effort into ensuring that it works.
“The defence of Australia, in the final analysis, is in air defence. We’ve got a good air defence at the moment, the best we’ve ever had, but to stay ahead of that game, you’ve got to have a stealth aircraft.
“We don’t have options around the F-35. If it was being produced by a country and a company with a history or record of abandonment, you’d be worried about it, but in the case of the United States they’ve got no options. This plane has got to work and that means that it will.”
There are 17 Australian suppliers for the JSF project, worth a combined $US550 million to date, including BAE Systems Australia, Ferra Engineering, Levett Engineering, Lovitt Technologies Australia, Marand, and Quickstep.
“Being part of the supply chains and being a niche producer - that’s the future of Australian manufacturing industry and that is what will drive inventiveness, innovation in the Austraklian community,” Mr Beazley said.
Lockheed Martin Australia chief executive Raydon Gates said the company was thrilled to have Mr Beazley on the board, being one of Australia’s most distinguished and well-respected statesmen.