BAE Systems Australia technicians are now working alongside the RAAF to complete on-the-job training as a blended Australian maintenance workforce supporting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
This is another important step towards BAE Systems Australia achieving an initial depot capability declaration for the support of the Australian F-35 fleet and aircraft across the Asia-Pacific region.
Initial depot capability is scheduled for December this year and is a major milestone for the program. The experience BAE Systems technicians will gain with the 3 Squadron at the RAAF base in Williamtown will build on initial classroom-based training they received at Lockheed Martin’s plant at Fort Worth in 2018.
Darren Shaw, F-35 program manager, said, "Our technicians have quickly demonstrated a high level of expertise and professionalism, which has been recognised by our customer. This is helping establish credibility and trust, the foundations of which our future growth on the program depends."
Some of the BAE Systems technicians have since returned to Fort Worth to receive Train-The-Trainer training. This will allow them to lead the training of the workforce at Williamtown as the number of people supporting F-35 sustainment increases in the future. The technicians are already experienced in various areas, including mechanical, avionics and structural disciplines.
The additional training at Fort Worth is required so that BAE Systems Australia can establish itself as an approved maintenance organisation for F-35, which is key to the BAE Systems Williamtown site being officially declared an F-35 airframe depot.
"The technicians will lead the growth of the airframe depot from December, which is expected to grow to 400 jobs over the next 10 years," Shaw added.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the RAAF and the wider Australian Defence Force.
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 USA, 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.