BLUF

A force structure combining the F-35B, the LHD warships and other air ISR assets provides a warfighting edge for Australia in a regional conflict.

Summary

In Dec 2018 Japan announced it would deploy F-35B aircraft from its Izumo Class warships. The F-35B, a variant of the Australian Air Force's F-35A, is a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft which could potentially also be deployed from Australia’s Canberra Class - Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) warships. The F-35A provides land-based air cover whereas the F-35B provides predominently maritime-based air cover. Australia's potential for F-35B acquisition, as part of AIR 6000, could increase the potential operational advantages that 'supercharged defensive networks' provide through combining the LHD and F-35B. As a nation with a maritime security strategy and the increased focus on defensive strategies in the Pacific, is a decision by Australia's Air Force to acquire the F-35B a logical one? Comparing the payload, speed and range of both aircraft variants, what are the implications of any trade-offs? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Or could Australia leverage its strategic partnership with Japan and the US to access the F-35B's capability from its maritime platforms to enhance the warfighting potential of LHD's during contingency surges?