Australian industry is reaping the benefits of the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, with local companies already securing over $1 billion in production contracts.
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Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne made the announcement, confirming over 50 Australian companies have shared in the production contracts so far.
"More than 50 Australian companies directly shared in the production contracts to date, with many more indirectly benefiting through supply chain work," Minister Pyne said.
"Australian industry continues to prove its global competitiveness by performing better than initial forecasts, with Australian industry involvement expected to exceed $2 billion by 2023."
The government is expecting Australia’s defence industry contribution to the program, which supported 2,400 jobs in 2016, will support up to 5,000 Australian jobs by 2023.
"The journey of Australian industry’s involvement in the global F-35 Program has been one of great success and long-term economic opportunity for Australia," Minister Pyne said.
"Further opportunities are expected for Australian companies to increase production contract values over the next four years as F-35 production rates more than double."
While Australian industry is currently manufacturing parts that will be fitted to every F-35 aircraft in production across the globe, the work will not solely be confined to manufacturing, with Australia set to lay a role in maintenance and sustainment.
“Australian success in the Joint Strike Fighter program isn’t limited to manufacturing parts. Australian industry has also been chosen as the maintenance hub for the engines, airframes and 64 of 65 components which have been assigned by the Joint Project Office," Minister Pyne said.
The Defence Industry Minister is planning to argue for more work for Australia on his visit to the US in April.
In a major milestone for the Australian F-35A Project, the first Australian-made vertical tail – produced by Victorian-based company Marand – was fitted to Australia’s third F-35A aircraft as it neared completion at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, in August 2017.
The first two Australian F-35A aircraft are scheduled to arrive for permanent basing at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW, in December.
By the time of final operating capability, expected in December 2023, Australia will have a training squadron and three operational squadrons comprising 72 aircraft to replace the F/A-18 Classic Hornet at a cost of $17 billion.
Currently, three aircraft are undergoing testing and training operations in the US, with the first two aircraft expected to arrive in Australia in December.