The TEMF will enable deeper-level maintenance, where JSF F135 engine modules are disassembled, repaired and reassembled for testing. Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne said the new facility is a testament to the strength of Australia’s defence industry and the contribution we make to the global F-35 Program.
"TAE Aerospace’s new facility will support maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade (MRO&U) activities for not only Australian F135 engines but also engines from around the Asia-Pacific region and the world," Minister Pyne said.
The Australian government has approved the acquisition of 72 F-35A JSF aircraft to replace the current fleet of 71 ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets.
Minister Pyne elaborated on the scale of the program and it's impact on the Australian defence industry.
"The addition of the F135 engine MRO&U activities will add a minimum of 15 aerospace technician jobs to its workforce and up to 85 additional jobs as part of the future F-35 Global Support Solution. TAE Aerospace is 100 per cent Australian-owned with 237 employees at several sites across Australia, with contracts to support Classic Hornet, Super Hornet, Growler and M1 Abram tank engines," he said.
TAE CEO and managing director Andrew Sanderson was elated with the opportunity presented by the contract and maintenance facility.
"This is an exciting opportunity for TAE to design and build a speciality maintenance and manufacturing facility, with two areas of focus, one dedicated to F-135 engine maintenance in partnership with CASG and Pratt & Whitney, and the second focusing on maintenance of existing engines from the Hornet, Super Hornet, Growler and Abrams platforms," Sanderson said.
Once completed the building will have 15,620 square metres of floor space, which is an 80 per cent expansion of the current footprint, which will see five key work areas established, including:
- F135 engine MRO&U and regional warehouse area – ready Q4 FY19;
- Existing engine MRO&U and warehouse area for engines from Hornet (F404), Super Hornet, Growler (F414) and Abrams tank (AGT1500), plus expansion space – ready Q2 FY20;
- Engine component repair area including, cleaning, non-destructive testing, machining, welding, grinding, heat treatment – ready Q2 FY20;
- Advanced manufacturing facility for aluminium vacuum brazing based chassis production for the F35 aircraft – ready Q2 FY20; and
- Administration and engineering office complex - ready Q2 FY20.
Additionally, the specially designed, secure facility will provide optimised work areas for improved production flow, which is climate controlled throughout, while implementing an open plan design to maximise the use of space and equipment.
"TAE has bee assigned all the F-135 engine maintenance in the Asia-Pacific, that includes Korean, Japanese and American aircraft, in fact our first work is likely to be on US Marine F-35Bs. This facility is one of the first around the globe to provide maintenance to the F-135 engine allowing us to establish ourselves as world leaders in this space, with world-class facilities and capabilities supporting the global F-35 program," Sanderson said, explaining the role this new facility will play in linking Australia into the global F-35 supply chain.
Lockheed Martin Australia F-35 Program Manager, Andy Doyle, told Defence Connect that the company notes this accomplishment, saying “As Original Equipment Manufacturer of the F-35, Lockheed Martin congratulates TAE Aerospace on this significant achievement that will contribute to Australia’s role as F-35 regional support centre in the Asia- Pacific."
Further reinforcing the sovereign capability generating role identified by
Australia is spending about $17 billion to buy 72 fighters of the F-35A variant, with the aircraft due to reach IOC by December 2020. Australia’s first six F-35As are currently operating at the international Pilot Training Centre at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, with four more aircraft expected to be delivered by the end of this year.
Two of Australia’s F-35A aircraft are scheduled to arrive for permanent basing at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle in December this year.