CANBERRA, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Australia has taken delivery of two ultra-expensive, state-of-the-art fighter jets, a move which defence chiefs say will strengthen the deterrent effect of the entire Australian Defence Force.
The two F-35A stealth fighters arrived at Williamtown RAAF Base, near Newcastle, on Monday morning.
Flanked by the aging F-18 Hornets they're set to replace, the first two F-35s landed at RAAF Base Williamtown after flying from RAAF Amberley in south Queensland, where they arrived from the United States last week.
Aviation enthusiasts gathered on the edge of the base from early in the morning and more watched a flyover of Newcastle ahead of the aircraft's official welcome by Australian Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne.
The single-engine F-35A Joint Strike Fighter has been labelled the most advanced in the world and is capable of reaching a top speed of 1,975 km per hour.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has already bought nine early-model F-35As, but the remaining seven continue to operate out of a U.S. training facility in Arizona.
The RAAF chief, Air Marshal Leo Davies, told The Australian newspaper that allies and potential enemies would look at the "fifth-generation", stealthy, multi-role F-35A jets as a key element for the ADF, and the force's capabilities.
"They'll think we'd be a tough nut to crack," Air Marshal Davies said on Monday. "That to me is the first part of having a defence force -- deterrence."
The federal government will spend a total of 12.3 billion U.S. dollars on 72 F-35 aircraft, with the cost being widely criticised.
The exact cost of maintaining the aircraft won't be known until the end of 2020. By that time, Australia is expected to have an operational fleet of 12, with another 18 fighters on the ground.
Marshal Davies said his pilots have raved about the F-35 jets, saying "there's just no comparison" with other combat aircraft -- particularly in relation to the way it integrates information from its own and external sensors.
"The difference is that stark in their estimation: night becomes day so you can drive normally," he said.