Hunter Valley-based technology company Varley Group has handed over the first two new deployable facilities to support operations of the RAAF’s new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.
These two facilities – transportable containers that will be outfitted with F-35 support equipment – are the first of 29 to be manufactured by Varley Group under a $37.5 million three-year contract.
Lockheed Martin Australia will complete a technology fit-out of the two deployable facilities.
One will house ICT equipment used on deployment while the other will provide a space for duty personnel and mission planning.
Once accepted by the RAAF, these facilities will be deployed to Luke AFB in Arizona where they will be used to support operations and maintenance of the first two RAAF F-35A aircraft planned for delivery to Australia in December 2018.
Lockheed Martin Australia chief executive Vince Di Pietro said completion of the first deployable facilities by Varley Group was a further reinforcement of Lockheed Martin Australia’s critical role in delivering an end-to-end sustainment solution for Australia’s advanced F-35 capability.
“As fifth-generation technology design pioneers, Lockheed Martin is uniquely placed to understand and meet the sustainment requirements of the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft; the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,” he said at the handover ceremony at Varley Group’s Australian headquarters in Tomago on Monday.
“The RAAF’s deployable facilities will play a critical role in supporting operations and maintenance activities for the F-35A aircraft – predictive prognostic and mission support requirements in the realisation of a truly networked and integrated Australian Defence Force.”
Varley Group managing director Jeff Phillips said Varley and Lockheed Martin Australia had delivered on time an Australian build, made from Australian steel by Australian workers in the Hunter.
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He said this was an opportunity to export the deployable facilities to the world.
“Without Lockheed Martin Australia's investment in the Australian defence industry and more importantly in Varley Group, 20 direct Varley jobs, including two apprentices, and another 50 local jobs downstream in the supply chain, would've been lost to the Hunter," Phillips said.
“The Hunter is on the verge of a defence jobs and defence exports boom.”
Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said these new facilities were critical to enabling F-35s to be operated and maintained while deployed away their home bases.
“Without the deployable facilities, the aircraft's full capabilities will not be realised,” he said.
“This is another strong example of opportunities in Australia's expanding defence industry being taken up by companies in Australia's regional areas.”
Australia is buying 72 F-35 aircraft, with the first two arriving in Australia at the end of the year.
Currently, the first two aircraft are flying in the US as part of the international pilot training pool at Luke USAF base in Arizona.
The new aircraft will be based at RAAF bases at Williamtown, NSW, and Tindal in the Northern Territory.