Defence minister Brendan Nelson's office confirms that Australia has asked the USN for data on the purchase or lease of one squadron of two-seat Block 2 Super Hornets, because its JSFs will be delivered from 2014 - too late to replace the F-111s, which are to be retired between 2010 and 2012. Only the F/A-18F is being considered for the stopgap requirement.
The minister's office says Australia is looking for early delivery of aircraft from Boeing's current production line in St Louis, Missouri. This would mean the navy giving up delivery slots, as the US Air Force did to enable expedited delivery of Boeing C-17 transports to Australia.
The office says a decision on whether to proceed with the Super Hornet deal is expected early next year. This could coincide with finalisation of the 2007-8 budget in February.