A RAAF F-35A flies over Melbourne during a media preview ahead of the 2023 Australian International Airshow on 24 February 2023.

Alex Coppel | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Lockheed Martin hopes Australia will buy more of its F-35 fighter jets after the country completes a defense review, an executive at the US manufacturer said on Tuesday.

“We look forward to the opportunity to deliver additional F-35s beyond” the 72 Australia has ordered, Executive Vice President of Aeronautics Greg Ulmer said on the sidelines of the Australia International Airshow.

Ulmer also said Lockheed has talked with Australia about partnering with the F-35 Boeings MQ-28 Ghost Bat fighter-like drone.

Boeing’s defense division chief Ted Colbert said during the air show that a partnership would be “good news.”

In a manned and unmanned teaming situation, the F-35 could act as a “quarterback” and focus on precision targeting while other aircraft deployed weapons, said Steve Over, Lockheed’s director of international affairs.

Lockheed Martin sees record order volume in 2022 as profit beats estimates

Australia has purchased 72 Lockheed F-35A jets to form three squadrons, with all aircraft scheduled to be fully operational this year. It had initially expressed interest in buying 100.

A defense strategic review considering Australia’s future force posture – including the possible purchase of a fourth squadron of F-35 jets – was handed to the government on 14 February.

Defense Secretary Richard Marles said in a pre-air show speech on Monday that the review and the government’s response would be made public in April.

He said the review comes against a backdrop of increased strategic competition between nations in the region.

“In the Indo-Pacific, China is running the largest conventional military build-up we’ve seen anywhere in the world since World War II. And much of this build-up is opaque,” Marles said.

Australia, a staunch US ally, has joined the US in pushing back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the disputed South China Sea.

Lockheed’s Over said it would take about four years for Australia to receive more F-35s if they placed an order this year.