WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has cleared a potential sale of weapons to Australia to augment that country’s future procurement of the F-35A joint strike fighter.
The deal primarily centers around selling the GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II, or SDB II, to Australia, potentially worth $815 million. All such announcements are notifications to Congress that the State Department is okay with selling the weapons and not an indication of a final deal.
The proposed sale would cover up to 3,900 GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II, up to 30 GBU-53/B Guided Test Vehicles (GTV) and up to 60 GBU-53/B Captive Carry Reliability Trainers (CCRT). Also included would be maintenance, transportation and support for the weapons.
In an announcement by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the U.S. notes that “the proposed sale of SDB II supports and complements the ongoing sale of the F-35A to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). This capability will strengthen combined operations, particularly air to ground strike missions in all-weather conditions, and increase interoperability between the United States and the RAAF.”
Australia intends to procure 72 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing models, with the first planned for delivery in 2018 and entering service in 2020.
Raytheon will be the prime contractor for the agreement, with work done at its Tuscon, Ariz., facility.
DSCA said it alerted Congress of the potential sale on Sept. 29, making it the final DSCA alter of fiscal year 2017, which had already set a record of $68.6 billion in arms announcements cleared by the State Department.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.