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Australian F-35 Joint Strike Fighters continue technology refresh testing

An F-35A Lightning II flown by Maj. Kristin Wolfe, 388th Fighter Wing F-35A Demonstration Team commander, over Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium, Sept. 8, 2023. Photo: US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Thomas Barley).

The Australian Defence Force is likely to receive its next batch of new F-35A Joint Strike Fighters in the second half of this year, according to US defence prime Lockheed Martin.

The Australian Defence Force is likely to receive its next batch of new F-35A Joint Strike Fighters in the second half of this year, according to US defence prime Lockheed Martin.

The Australian government has previously approved AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B to acquire 72 Lightning II aircraft along with associated weapons, spares, support equipment, and infrastructure.

Defence had previously announced that the project was scheduled to deliver an initial operating capability in December 2020, final operating capability in December 2023, and critical air combat power to meet Australia’s needs beyond 2030.


The new F-35 aircraft are designed with a Technology Refresh-3 (TR-3) package which includes additional munitions capabilities, target recognition, jamming, cyber security, sensor and user interface improvements, processing and data storage enhancements.

“To date, the RAAF has taken delivery of 63 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. Delivery impacts on the next nine RAAF F-35As will be informed based on the remaining Technology Refresh-3 test schedule,” according to a Lockheed Martin spokesperson.

“We continue to produce F-35s at rate and expect to begin delivering TR-3 jets in the third quarter, with a 2024 delivery target of 75–110.

“Over 90 per cent of the TR-3 functionality is currently in-flight test, with additional focus underway to address consistent performance and closure of improvements identified in the lab.”

Further information on the TR-3 upgrade schedule was provided during a Lockheed Martin Corporation Quarter Four 2023 earnings call on 23 January this year.

“We delivered 18 F-35 aircraft in the Technology Refresh 2 configuration in the fourth quarter, bringing the 2023 total to 98 jets. We are making continued progress toward delivering the first TR-3-configured aircraft,” according to Jim Taiclet, Lockheed Martin chairman, president, and chief executive officer.

“Today, over 90 per cent of the TR-3 functionality is currently in flight test, and we are further advancing the software integration to include additional aircraft and mission subsystems.

“While this system maturation process continues to advance, it is taking somewhat more time than we originally anticipated.

“The second quarter customer acceptance of delivery software remains our target. However, we now believe that a third quarter may be more likely scenario for a TR-3 software acceptance. We are taking the time and attention to get this technology insertion right the first time because it will be absolutely worth it.

“The step-function technological advances of TR-3 will provide our customers with the onboard digital infrastructure of data storage, data processing, and pilot user interface to provide unmatched capabilities for many years to come.

“These include increased types of capability for air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions; advanced sensing, jamming, and cyber security capabilities; and more accurate target recognition.

“To achieve this level of reliable capability for the long run, the resulting aircraft delivery range for 2024 is between 75 and 110 and requires the TR-3 hardware suppliers to keep pace with production demands both this year and in the future.

“Given the increasing operational capability and digital connectivity of the aircraft as a cornerstone of all-domain operations, international demand for the F-35 remains very strong.

“In December, the Republic of Korea made the decision to procure 20 additional F-35 aircraft. Also in December, we presented the first F-35A to the Belgian government, which will be one of more than 600 F-35s that will be stationed in Europe across NATO member bases by the 2030.”

In addition, chief financial officer Jay Malave said there is a “handful of deliveries” for the F-35 expected in the first half of this year.

“For the most part, 90 per cent of the anticipated deliveries actually will happen in the back half of the year. And so, I think that’s just the way to think about it, just a handful, really, in the first half,” he said.

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