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Australia to send F-35s to Exercise Bersama Lima in first fifth-gen outing

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft A35-011 taxis into the hangers at RAAF Base Williamtown. Photo: SGT David Gibbs

The Australian Defence Force will send F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Exercise Bersama Lima later this year, heralding the first time a fifth-generation aircraft has participated.

The Australian Defence Force will send F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Exercise Bersama Lima later this year, heralding the first time a fifth-generation aircraft has participated.

The aircraft will take part for the first time in the annual military exercise between the five nations in the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), according to comments made by Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles, who was speaking at the Five Power Defence Arrangements Meeting in Singapore on 31 May.

Exercise Bersama Lima, traditionally held in October, has previously gathered more than 400 ADF personnel for two weeks alongside military forces from Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.


The exercise focuses on combined joint operations in a multi-threat environment, with training designed to enhance interoperability and strengthen professional relationships.

“There is a broadening of the exercises that we are doing. In the conventional space, though, we are increasing the assets that we are bringing to bear in exercises,” Minister Marles said during the Five Power Defence Arrangements meeting.

“At the Bersama Lima later this year, for the first time, Australia will be contributing F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to that exercise, and that will be the first time we’ll have a fifth-generation aircraft participating in Bersama Lima.

“It’s an example of what we are trying to do in terms of increasing the complexity of these exercises and the high-end nature of them.

“It’s entirely consistent with the history of FPDA. When you look right back to 1971 through to now, there has been an evolution, as you would expect, in the kind of exercises that have been undertaken with more complex assets being brought to bear. And this is an important example of how that continues.

“We’re really looking forward to this year’s Bersama Lima and the participation of the Joint Strike Fighters in that. And we look forward to Bersama Lima going forward to be even more high end and more complex.”

The Five Power Defence Arrangements were established in 1971 as a security arrangement between Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Malaysia, and Singapore.

The ADF has previously deployed F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft, C-27J Spartan military transport aircraft, and the Royal Australian Navy Hobart Class guided missile destroyer HMAS Brisbane to the exercise.

“We [have] discussed the opportunities that were kind of coming up into the future. And from a UK perspective ... we’re already planning a carrier deployment into the region in 2025, Operation High Mast,” UK Ministry of Defence general security policy director Paul Wyatt said, speaking at the same meeting.

“We’re able to discuss thinking about the opportunities that we’d have to look at cooperation and interoperability with that group and the FPDA exercise program. So we’ll be discussing how we can incorporate those plans as we work together into the future.”

In addition, New Zealand Minister of Defence Judith Collins said New Zealand is very happy to be part of the exercise of Bersama Lima and is issuing its own first deployment of aircraft.

“We will be contributing to that exercise, including the option of the first deployment of the P-8 Poseidon to Singapore for that operation. And I think it will be a great opportunity for us to work together,” Minister Collins said.

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