Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has recently accepted the 30th F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft from prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
Significant work is undertaken before Australia can formally accept each jet, with pre-acceptance testing involving multiple checks on the production line at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Texas, USA, as well as several flight tests to ensure each F-35A is up to the tasks the RAAF requires.
F-35A Air Vehicle Lead Squadron Leader Brook Porter is about to wrap up his three-year posting to Joint Strike Fighter Branch in Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, where he has been involved in accepting 28 F-35A aircraft.
Squadron Leader Porter said the in-depth acceptance process ensured each F-35A was ready for Australian defence registration and operational use.
“Working with local and international stakeholders, the team has also been integral to ferrying the majority of these aircraft to Australia from the US,” Squadron Leader Porter said.
“It’s rewarding to be part of the team establishing Australia’s future air-combat capability. It’s much bigger than simply delivering an aircraft. It’s important to remain vigilant and stick to our ‘smart-customer’ approach. This means we are constantly asking questions to ensure we are getting value for money, as we strive to deliver Australia’s fifth-generation fighter jet capability.”
Director General Joint Strike Fighter Branch Air Commodore Damien Keddie said accepting and ferrying each of Australia’s jets was the epitome of international collaboration.
“I am proud of the way the team has come together, particularly during the global pandemic, to find innovative solutions to issues that may otherwise have prevented us reaching 30 aircraft in the fleet,” Air Commodore Keddie said.
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 Australian Government announced its selection of the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A Lightning II to replace its classic Hornet fighter fleet in 2009, building on a more than 50-year partnership between the RAAF and Lockheed Martin.
The F-35A is being purchased by the Australian Department of Defence (DoD)’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) under project AIR 6000 – Joint Strike Fighter Division.
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.
In the future, a fourth operational squadron will be considered for RAAF Base Amberley, for a total of 100 F-35A aircraft.