Australia’s multi-billion-dollar Joint Strike Fighter program has reached a new milestone with seven additional F-35A Lightning II aircraft arriving at RAAF Base Williamtown.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the arrival brought the total number of F-35As at Williamtown to 13, with another five based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
The F-35 program was on track to provide Australia with a fifth-generation aircraft at the forefront of air combat technology.
“This is the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world which will deliver next-generation capability benefits and provide a major boost to air combat capability,” Senator Reynolds said.
The Australian Government has approved the next 24 aircraft – meaning all 72 Australian F-35A Lightning II aircraft are now locked in. The Department of Defence has also signed on to an international deal known as the ‘Block Buy Contract’, valued in total at US$34 billion, which would deliver 45 of Australia’s F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
“The deal is great news for Australia with the unit price now 5 percent below the estimate at Government approval in 2014,” Senator Reynolds said.
Australian F-35A Lightning II Fleet
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 allows 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 F-35A is being purchased by the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) under project AIR 6000 – Joint Strike Fighter Division
The first F-35A aircraft was accepted into Australian service in 2018, with the first arriving in the 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.