BAE Systems Australia – which won the maintenance contract to service the F-35 fighter jets slated to arrive in Australia next year – is opting to use a gradual development program to do the job.
"By actually having our crew ready and trained, they'll be actually working with the Air Force on the aircraft, whether it's operational or deeper maintenance, and preparing for the first schedule event which might be just a few years later than that," BAE Systems director of aerospace Steven Drury told Defence Connect.
Mr Drury said as the number of aircraft increases going forward, certain modifications will be required for the aircraft in the early stages.
"It's a development program still, where the aircraft are getting better and better and have to be upgraded to the latest configuration," he said.
Mr Drury estimated BAE Systems would need about 200 people to maintain the aircraft.
"The number of aircraft we're actually developing for that in the hangar is some six to eight," he said. "Remember, we're a regional depot so we don't have to also accommodate for the 72 aircraft Australia is buying. There's other international aircraft that may also come into our depot."
"Our estimate right now says that we need some six bays for the Australian aircraft, and the other two bays are for international," he said, adding, "These things will have to remain flexible as we learn more about the aircraft."