Australia has been selected to provide maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade for a significantly larger number of components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleets in the Asia-Pacific region.
The expansion is yet another boost to Australia's involvement in the global F-35 program and has been described as a major show of confidence in Australia's defence industry.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne welcomed the announcement, saying, "I welcome the United States government's further commitment to Australia as a regional hub for the maintenance of the F-35 JSF."
This result adds to Australian industry’s success in winning F-35 assignments for:
- Air vehicle maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade for the southern Pacific region;
- Propulsion system maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade for the Asia-Pacific region;
- Component maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade of 64 out of 65 Tier 1 components; and
- Asia-Pacific regional warehouse.
"This announcement again proves that our defence industry can equal and beat the best in the world when it comes to sustaining complex aviation assets," Minister Pyne added.
A number of Australian companies or Australia-based subsidiaries have won a series of support, maintenance, repair and upgrade programs, including:
- BAE Systems Australia – Avionics not tested on digital Lockheed Martin STAR automatic test equipment and canopy systems;
- RUAG Australia – Auxiliary power systems, hydraulics, landing gear and pumps;
- Northrop Grumman – Electro-optical and aircraft composites;
- NIOA – Munitions; and
- Survitec Group – Life support.
Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo welcomed the announcement, saying, "Already local industry has secured more than $1.3 billion in contracts from F-35 design and production work, resulting in opportunities for Australian industry beyond the F-35 program.
"Today’s announcement is the next step in opportunities opening up a market for aircraft component repair, which will be part of the F-35 Global Support Solution and cements Australia as a key strategic partner in the global F-35 enterprise."
BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan welcomed the announcement and investment in Australia's defence industry support for the F-35, saying, "The collaborative approach taken by the Australian government and industry has been the key to the success in securing additional F-35 sustainment work for Australian business. It will put Australia at the forefront of F-35 component sustainment."
The announcement was welcomed by NSW Minister for Trade and Industry, Niall Blair MLC, saying, "Today’s announcement adds to the long list of NSW based companies, including Varley, Quickstep, Partech Systems, and Survitec, that are providing parts, equipment and sustainment for the F-35."
"Together with the BAE Systems sustainment facility at RAAF Williamtown, these NSW based companies are cementing the state’s reputation as a centre of excellence in Australia’s sovereign defence industry capability," Minister Blair added.
The F-35A – the variant chosen by the RAAF – will have with a projected life of 30 years in service. Ten nations are currently flying F-35s, including the US, UK, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan. The first of Australia’s F-35A aircraft are now based on home soil after a period of training and development at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, US, plus an epic Pacific Ocean crossing in December 2018.
More than 340 F-35s are operating today with partner nations, more than 700 pilots and 6,500 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 170,000 cumulative flight hours.
Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.