Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has revealed over 50 Australian companies have shared in $1 billion worth of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter contracts, and the government has now set its sights on securing more lucrative contracts under the global project.
In a speech at the Australian Industry & Defence Network (AIDN) National Dinner in Canberra, Minister Pyne said his trip to the US in April will see the Australian government push to win more work on the global JSF program.
"2018 will see the United States government choosing the repair locations for another 388 components of the Joint Strike Fighter, and Defence is working very closely with industry to position Australia in the Global Support Solution. I will travel to Washington, DC in April to press our case," Minister Pyne said.
Upcoming JSF assignments from the US will include additional components, support equipment, full mission simulators, autonomic logistics information system (ALIS) and maintenance training devices, as the fleet grows and the F-35 global presence expands.
In August last year, Australia was selected by the US Department of Defense as the home of Asia-Pacific's F-35 regional warehouse. BAE Systems Australia was selected as the prime to run the warehouse, which is located in Williamtown, NSW.
The warehouse will provide spares to all operational units in the region – whether the Joint Strike Fighter squadrons are from Australia or visiting squadrons on deployment from other parts of the world.
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 be confined to manufacturing, with Australia set to play 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 this week.
Currently, Victorian companies are leading the way with a total of six companies contributing to the F-35 project – Marand, Lovitt, Cablex, AW Bell, RUAG and BAE Systems Australia, which has offices in both Victoria and South Australia.
Australia has ordered 72 F-35As, with potential for a fourth Australian squadron that would bring the number to 100.
The first two JSF's will arrive in Australia in 2018 and in early 2019, RAAF will start verifying and validating processes for operating the F-35A in the Australian context.