The latest Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to take to the skies will not be a $200 million Joint Strike Fighter.
It will be a $100,000 hot air balloon.
The RAAF has issued a tender for the “procurement of a hot air balloon system”.
The aircraft would be based at the RAAF’s Central Flying School at East Sale in Victoria.
But this will not be a weapon of war — it will form part of the Defence Department’s public relations arsenal.
It is not the first of its kind in Australia. Residents of Canberra will be used to seeing a similar balloon take to the early morning skies.
It even has its own Facebook page.
One hundred years ago, military balloons were the latest in cutting-edge technology. Hydrogen balloons were used extensively for surveillance during World War I and the Japanese used them to send bombs across the Pacific Ocean to North America in World War II.
There will be no laser-guided missiles on this modern-day version; instead it will be used as a recruitment tool to promote the RAAF.
One disadvantage is the leisurely pace of a hot air balloon, which is much lower than the F-35’s top speed of 1,930 kilometres per hour.
But unlike the beleaguered Joint Strike Fighter, which has seen multiple delays and cost blow-outs, it will not need a $400,000 helmet to fly it.
The first Joint Strike Fighters will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service in 2020.