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New Zealand won't buy F-35 fighter jet

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New Zealand has no plans to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that a U.S.-led program is developing for the United States and at least 10 other countries, a New Zealand official said Oct. 28.

Although New Zealand is a U.S. ally, the island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean sees no need to acquire the stealthy fighter jet to defend its small population of about 4.5 million people, said New Zealand Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman. And New Zealand likely could not afford it anyway, he noted. A single F-35 currently costs about $137 million, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

“That’s just not part of our horizon,” Coleman told reporters. “We’re a small defense force. We’re very niche in what we do. We need capabilities that support those very specific things we need to do, largely in our backyard.”

Coleman made his remarks at a Pentagon press briefing after meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to discuss defense cooperation between the two countries.

New Zealand currently has no fighters of its own. But Australia, its larger, friendly neighbor, flies F/A-18 fighters and plans to buy the F-35.

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