Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft has achieved a milestone by completing 1000 sorties at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, USA.
The Australian Partner Maintenance Liaison Officer, SQLNDR Chris Myles, said reaching 1000 sorties was a significant achievement for the team in the U.S. as it recognised a successful collaborative effort.
“We could not have reached 1000 sorties in the time we had if it wasn’t for our strong partnerships – that’s RAAF, USAF and Lockheed Martin, all pulling in the same direction,” SQNLDR Myles said. “We only accepted our latest four aircraft in recent months so the vast majority of those hours have been clocked by A35-001 and A35002.”
Australian training operations at Luke AFB have progressively increased in tempo since acceptance of the first two aircraft in 2014.
“Reaching over 1400 operational hours at this stage of the introduction of the F-35A is a testament to the high serviceability of the Australian aircraft,” SQNLDR Myles said.
SQNLDR David Bell, the pilot who launched the 1000th sortie and the second Australian to fly the F-35A, reflected on what this means to the Australians flying and maintaining the F-35A.
“The jets’ capabilities have matured significantly over the past 1000 sorties,” SQNLDR Bell said. “As a team, we’ve learned many lessons that will hold us in good stead when we bring our first two aircraft home later this year.”
The Air Force has six F-35A aircraft and expects delivery of four more aircraft in 2018. The introduction of the F-35A into Australian service is a significant step in the evolution of a fifth-generation air combat capability.
Australia’s first two F-35A aircraft to be permanently based at RAAF Base Williamtown are on schedule to arrive in December. The Australian Government is investing in 72 F-35A Lightning II aircraft to replace the current fleet of 71 ageing F/A-18A/B Hornet fighter jets.