Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has officially welcomed the latest batch of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters to the Royal Australian Air Force fleet at RAAF Base Williamtown.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the F-35 program is on track to provide Australia with a fifth-generation aircraft that is at the forefront of air combat technology.
“This brings the total number of F-35As that are operating at RAAF Base Williamtown to 13, with another five aircraft based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, USA.
“This is the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world, which will deliver next-generation capability benefits and provide a major boost to air combat capability,” Minister Reynolds stated.
In addition, the Australian government has approved the next 24 aircraft – meaning all 72 Australian F-35A Lightning II aircraft are now locked in.
Defence has also signed onto an international deal known as the Block Buy Contract, valued in total at US$34 billion, which will deliver 45 of Australia’s F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
“The deal is great news for Australia, with the unit price now 5 percent below the estimate at government approval in 2014,” Minister Reynolds said.
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 Royal Australian Air Force and the wider Australian Defence Force.
Minister Reynolds added, “The F-35A is a key part of the Morrison government’s $200 billion investment in Defence capability, which includes investing in next-generation air combat capability for Australia.”
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.
The F-35A – the variant chosen by the RAAF – will have 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-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.