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US Navy pilots team up with RAAF aviators in F-35 deployment

Two Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II (top, A35-009 and rear A35-012) and two United States Navy F-35C Lightning II aircraft (VX-9 #101 and 102) fly in formation over Newcastle, NSW. Photo: LAC Kurt Lewis

US Navy fighter pilots have joined Royal Australian Air Force aviators during a month of collaborative exercises.

US Navy fighter pilots have joined Royal Australian Air Force aviators during a month of collaborative exercises.

F-35C Lightning II aircraft, operated by the US Navy's Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9 (VX-9), deployed to RAAF Base Williamtown to exercise with Australian F-35A Lightning II aircraft operated by No. 3 Squadron (3SQN) in NSW during the month of June.

The aircraft flew in formation over areas of Broughton Island, Tomaree Peninsula, Port Stephens, Newcastle, and Lake Macquarie during the deployment, focused on enhancing interoperability between the USN and RAAF.


The US Navy's Air Test and Evaluation Squadron reportedly provides new warfighting capability to the US fleet by testing aircraft, weapons, and weapon systems in an operationally relevant environment.

“VX-9 is charged with the testing and evaluation of weapons and their related systems in direct support of the United States Naval Aviation Fleet,” a statement published by the US Navy said.

“The skilled sailors and Marines of VX-9 are known for their ability to adapt to the dynamic testing environment that the aviation field provides. They are dedicated to their task and hold a broad range of expertise in the aviation field.”

The US squadron traditionally resides at hangar one of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the north-east of Los Angeles.

Earlier this year, US defence prime Lockheed Martin announced that 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.

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.

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