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Australian Navy Backs Off From F-35B Joint Strike Fighter

F35 Sea TrialsThe Australian military has decided to cancel plans to purchase F-35B Joint Strike Fighter short-take-off-and-vertical landing aircraft and place 12 of the aircraft on two of their larger assault ships, citing the challenges of needing to rework the ships to accommodate the plane, according to published reports.

“Prime Minister Tony Abbott's proposal to put F-35 fighter jets on the Navy's two 27,000-tonne troop transport assault ships has been quietly dropped,” writes The Australian Financial Review.

The two assault ships, which are the largest in the Australian Navy, would need a massive amount of modifications in order to host the F-35B, the report said.

“The jump-jet proposal would involve extensive modifications to the ships, including new radar systems, instrument landing systems, heat-resistant decking, restructuring of fuel storage and fuel lines, and storage hangars,” The Australian Financial Review reported.

The U.S. Navy has made progress with modifications to its first America-class amphibious assault ship, the USS America, in order to improve its ability to properly host the Marine Corps' F-35B.

Some of the modifications involve fortifying the ship's deck such that it can withstand the heat generated by the vertical take-off and landing of the F-35B, Navy officials said.

The America's first deployment is now slated for Spring 2016, Navy officials have said.

In total, the America is configured to house up to 31 aircraft including as many as 12 MV-22 Ospreys and the CH-53 Super Stallion, AH-1Z Super Cobra, UH-1Y Huey, F-35 B Short-take-off-and-landing Joint Strike Fighter and MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter.

Unlike previous Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, the America will not have a well-deck to launch connector vehicles that transport Marines and equipment from ship to shore over water. Instead, the America is specifically engineered for aviation. Compared with prior amphibs, the America has a larger deck space and hangar area for aircraft.

-- Kris Osborn can be reached at Kris.Osborn@military.com

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