The F-35A Lightning II is the Australian Defence Force’s first fifth-generation air combat capability. It is a highly advanced multi-role, supersonic, stealth fighter which will meet Australia’s requirements to defeat current and emerging threats.
The F-35A is at the forefront of air combat technology. Its advanced sensors and data fusion will allow it to gather more information and share it with other Air Force aircraft, Navy ships and Army units quicker than ever before. This will greatly enhance the Australian Defence Force’s situational awareness and combat effectiveness. In addition, to greatly enhanced situational awareness, the F-35A provides its pilots with significantly higher levels of lethality and survivability in combat.
Australia has committed to 72 F-35A aircraft for three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. The first F-35A aircraft was accepted into Australian service in 2018, with the first arriving in country in December that year. The first F-35A squadron, No. 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.
After being selected as the maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade depot for the Southeast Asia region, the BAESA facility will host Australian F-35A aircraft and in future other nations’ F-35 aircraft. The Program is progressing on budget and on schedule and the aircraft is undergoing routine structural modifications to improve the airframe, ensuring it reaches full life, and align it with newer aircraft. Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds CSC said up to four Australian F-35A aircraft were expected to undergo routine maintenance at BAESA’s facility this year, demonstrating the significant boost the Program was having on the local Hunter economy.
The first F-35A aircraft has been inducted into BAE Systems Australia’s (BAESA) maintenance depot as part of the next major milestone in the Joint Strike Fighter Program.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the F-35A fleet was now 33 strong and ready to deploy on operations. “This is about protecting and securing Australia’s interests but it’s also creating jobs and driving investment right here in the Hunter and across the country too,” the Prime Minister said. “This induction demonstrates the world leading capability of our local defence industry here in Australia. “We want to give as many opportunities to Australian companies as possible which is why there’s already more than 50 local companies sharing in $2.7 billion worth of contracts as part of the F-35 Program. “As we recover from the COVID recession a key plank of our Economic Recovery Plan is our $270 billion investment in Defence capability over the next decade and our $65 billion commitment in air capabilities which includes the Joint Strike Fighter Program. This investment is keeping Australians safe and secure while creating more jobs and more opportunities for businesses.”