The Commonwealth government has ramped up investment in local F-35A sustainment, which includes the award of a five-year contract to a major defence prime.
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The local defence industry is set to deliver a further $140 million in maintenance and supply-chain support for the Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet of fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II fighter jets.
A five-year Air Vehicle Support Services (AVSS) contract worth $80 million has been awarded to BAE Systems Australia, and an additional $60 million has been invested in the F-35A Industry Support Program.
The AWS contract aims to bolster sovereign maintenance and supply-chain support for the F-35A fleet at RAAF Bases Williamtown in the Hunter region of NSW and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.
The deal is tipped to support the employment of approximately 46 BAE Systems Australia staff, tasked with providing direct, on-the-ground support to RAAF personnel sustaining the F-35.
“We are delighted to build on our contribution to the global F-35 program with this additional support for the RAAF. We will be leveraging our years of experience in fast jet sustainment working side by side with the RAAF to deliver aircraft availability and capability requirements,” BAE Systems Australia managing director - defence delivery, Andrew Gresham, said.
In collaboration with Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems delivers up to 15 per cent of each F-35 aircraft globally, including the provision of advanced manufacture of the aft fuselage, empennage and crucial components from its facilities in the UK and Australia.
Some components used for the aircraft’s vertical tail, corrosion prognostics and avionics are also manufactured by BAE Systems in South Australia.
Meanwhile, the additional $60 million invested by the Commonwealth government in the F-35A Industry Support Program is expected to bolster work opportunities for local SMEs.
“The $60 million increase in funding for the Joint Strike Fighter Industry Support Program will allow Australian companies to develop new and improved capabilities to strengthen their chances of securing contracts in the global F-35 Program,” Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said.
"… This increased funding illustrates our commitment to building a world-leading sovereign defence industry, with this figure set to grow as more jets are produced and our Australian-based fleet continues to grow.”
Local firms contributing the global F-35 program are estimated to have shared in over $3 billion in support contracts.
Minister Price has encouraged Australian businesses to review the Joint Strike Fighter Industry Support Program Guidelines to consider opportunities to participate in the program.
The RAAF recently received three new F-35 jets, taking the total size of the existing fleet to 44.
The new aircraft touched down in RAAF Base Williamtown, where these were accepted by No. 77 Squadron.
The Commonwealth government has ordered 72 F-35A aircraft under the Joint Strike Fighter program.
All 72 jets are expected to be fully operational by 2023, with an option to expand the fleet to a maximum of 100 aircraft.
[Related: New F-35As delivered to RAAF ]