UPDATE 2-Grounding, budget woes cloud F-35 warplane sales push in Australia
Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:17am EST
By Andrea Shalal-Esa and Jane Wardell
Feb 25 (Reuters) - This year's second grounding of Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 warplane, plus looming U.S. defence cuts, will complicate a push this week by Lockheed and U.S. officials to convince Australian lawmakers and generals to stick to a plan to buy 100 of the jets.
Australia, a close American ally, is considering doubling its fleet of 24 Boeing Co F/A-18 Super Hornets amid delays and setbacks in Lockheed's $396 billion F-35 project.
That means Canberra could buy far fewer F-35s than initially planned, at a time when Canada is also rethinking its plans to make the F-35 - also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) - its future frontline warplane.
U.S. Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the Pentagon program chief for the F-35, said the grounding over a crack found in a test aircraft engine would not delay delivery of the most expensive combat aircraft in history.