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14 Aug 03. BAE Systems Australia will lead a joint Australian government-industry bid to make Australia the regional service hub for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, Defense Minister Robert Hill said Thursday.

BAE Systems Australia, a unit of U.K.-based BAE Systems PLC , will spearhead the industry side of the taskforce to promote Australia’s capability to support Australian Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, as well as JSF planes operated by nations in the region or deployed in Asia, said Hill.

The government has agreed to invest up to US$150 million in the 10-year development and demonstration phase of the US$200 billion, U.S.-led JSF program.

Canberra’s involvement is driven by the need to replace the defense force’s aging F-111 strike aircraft and F/A-18 Hornets from 2012. Hill noted five Australian companies have already been chosen to work on the JSF program and the government expects more contracts to flow during the life of the project.

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