Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price have announced a five-year, $91 million agreement between Defence and Lockheed Martin Australia to ensure the efficient delivery of sustainment support for the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
Together with the heads of agreement announced in February this year, the strategic deed is the first of its kind strategic agreement to be signed by the Commonwealth and provides a contractual framework for Lockheed Martin Australia and the Department of Defence that will underpin all F-35 sustainment contracts in Australia. Under the framework, Lockheed Martin Australia leads a team of local partners that have been successful in securing regional and local F-35 sustainment assignments.
Minister Reynolds said the support agreement for the logistics system consolidates existing arrangements provided through the US F-35 Joint Program Office and into one Australian managed contract with Lockheed Martin Australia.
"This is a significant milestone towards achieving initial operating capacity for the F-35A. It delivers a more responsive and cost-effective solution for key aspects of Australian F-35A maintenance management, and will create up to 60 jobs in the Canberra, Adelaide, Hunter and Katherine regions," Minister Reynolds explained.
The strategic deed also establishes Australia as the first partner with which Lockheed Martin has entered into a direct, long-term commercial agreement for F-35 sustainment.
The IMAS contract, which is the first such contract to be signed under the strategic deed, appoints Lockheed Martin Australia to deliver Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) support including administration services, mission combat system support and cyber accreditation for Australia’s F-35 program. The IMAS contract will support 60 new skilled jobs, cementing the centre as the core F-35 sustainment capability in the region.
Minister Price said the signing of the agreement highlighted the Morrison government’s commitment to creating more Australian jobs in the JSF program.
"There are more than 50 Australian companies delivering parts fitted to every JSF globally, sharing $1.3 billion in work. This number is expected to almost double to $2 billion by 2023 and employ 5,000 people across Australia," Minister Price said.
Interim chief executive of Lockheed Martin Australia, Scott Thompson, said the strategic deed and IMAS agreements represented a critical step in establishing a sustainment capability that will meet the Royal Australian Air Force’s fifth-generation needs.
"As the original equipment manufacturer and lead sustainment partner globally, we are proud to partner with the Department of Defence to lead sustainment support for the Australian F-35 program," Thompson said.
Thompson told Defence Connect, "Our new contracts with the Department of Defence are a world first and are an important step in developing fifth-generation sovereign capability, providing an opportunity for potentially billions of dollars’ worth of new sustainment contracts for local industry. This announcement builds on announcements made by LMA to support sovereign industry development in country, for example, Lockheed Martin Australia has signed agreements with the University of Newcastle and TAFE NSW to help nurture Australia’s future F-35 workforce in the Hunter region."
Air Commodore Damien Keddie, Director-General Joint Strike Fighter Division, expanded on the comments made by Thompson, telling Defence Connect, "These agreements are the next stage in maturing the sovereign maintenance and sustainment program for Australia’s F-35 capability and the sovereign sustainment and capability for Australia.
"This is important for supporting the sovereign capability of the Australian F-35 and the ALIS agreement is particularly important because working with Lockheed Martin Australia enables us to keep the mission data and fidelity of the information generated by Australia’s JSFs in our hands while supporting the development of Australia’s sovereign industry."
The F-35A ALIS is an off-board information system that provides fault diagnosis, maintenance management, supply support, and mission planning and training management.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the Royal Australian Air Force and the wider ADF.
For the RAAF, the F-35A's combination of full-spectrum, low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force-multiplying, air-combat platform.
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.