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Australian industry first to support fifth-gen F-35 program

In a major milestone for Australia’s defence industry, the Rheinmetall NIOA joint venture will play a pivotal role in supporting the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet and program.

In a major milestone for Australia’s defence industry, the Rheinmetall NIOA joint venture will play a pivotal role in supporting the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet and program.

In an Australian first, Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions (RNM) is set to produce and export medium-calibre ammunition for the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. RNM has announced that it will begin production of 25mm Frangible Armoured Piercing (FAP) projectiles at the federal government-owned Benalla plant in Victoria.

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The deal marks the first expansion of the RNM joint venture beyond its $60 million artillery shell forging plant in Maryborough, Queensland.

Rheinmetall Waffe Munitions is a global multinational weapons manufacturer, while Australian-owned NIOA is a leading supplier of weapons and munitions to the Australian Defence Force.

RNM has announced that, subject to Department of Defence’s approval it will begin production of 25mm Frangible Armoured Piercing (FAP) projectiles at the federal government-owned Benalla plant in Victoria.

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The deal marks the first expansion of the RNM joint venture beyond its $60m artillery shell forging plant in Maryborough, Queensland.

Rheinmetall Waffe Munitions is a global multinational weapons manufacturer, while Australian-owned NIOA is the leading supplier of weapons and munitions to the Australian Defence Force.

The proposed Load Assemble Pack (LAP) line at Benalla will be capable of producing 20mm to 35mm medium-calibre ammunition.

Rheinmetall Waffe Munitions aims to serve as a secondary source supplier to the US government for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Werner Kraemer, chairman of the board of directors at RNM, said that with the Maryborough project on track, it was time to expand the footprint and capabilities of the joint venture company in Australia.

“We are totally committed to this joint venture and the Australian market. By committing to develop this medium-calibre production capability here in Australia, we will not only create local jobs and build a supply chain, we will also be developing a proven and sustainable export market,” Mr Kraemer said.

NIOA managing director Robert Nioa noted that the project would enable development of a true sovereign capability in medium-calibre munitions in Australia. “The establishment of this new capability would be a first for Australian industry. On the back of a 100 percent private sector investment, we will ensure that future munitions supplied to the ADF will be made right here in Australia,” Mr Nioa said.

Subject to Defence approval, the line is scheduled to be installed in the first half of 2021 and be at full production by September that year.

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.

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.

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.

Australian industry first to support fifth-gen F-35 program
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