Australia’s fleet of fifth-generation fighter jets has been bolstered by new arrivals.
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Four additional Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter aircraft have been accepted into service by the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) No. 77 Squadron.
The jets arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown in NSW, travelling from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, United States as part of Exercise Lightning Ferry 22-3.
The delivery was supported by a RAAF KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft from No. 33 Squadron, and a C-17A Globemaster III aircraft from No. 36 Squadron.
These latest arrivals take the total size of the RAAF’s F-35A fleet to 54 following the arrival of two jets in June.
The Commonwealth government has ordered 72 F-35A aircraft under the $16.6 billion Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) contract with Lockheed Martin.
The JSF program has delivered two operational squadrons, with the third scheduled to enter service later this year.
All 72 jets are expected to be fully operational by 2023, with an option to expand the fleet to a maximum of 100 aircraft.
Thus far, RAAF F-35A aircraft have clocked over 15,000 flight hours.
The arrival of the four new aircraft at RAAF Base Williamtown followed the fleet’s inaugural participation in Exercise Pitch Black.
Nos. 3 and 75 Squadrons linked up with counterparts from 15 nations around the world to strengthen air domain interoperability, engaging in a number of activities from RAAF Base Darwin, RAAF Base Tindal, and RAAF Base Amberley.
Activities included showcasing the stealth aircraft’s handling capabilities at Mindil Beach and a display during the RAAF Base Darwin Open Day.
[Related: RAAF F-35As to light up Exercise Pitch Black]