Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among several senior government and ADF officials to welcome the arrival of the first Lockheed Martin-built Joint Strike Fighter at BAE Systems Australia’s Williamtown facility.
The first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has arrived at BAE Systems Australia’s (BAESA) facility at RAAF Base Williamtown, and was welcomed at a ceremony held on Monday (8 February).
The event was attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld and BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan.
The Williamtown facility, which serves as the Southern Pacific Regional F-35 Heavy Airframe Depot, will support the F-35 fleet in the region over the next three decades.
An initial team of 32 F-35 technicians has been recruited to provide airframe maintenance and sustainment for the depot.
The maintenance and sustainment of the F-35 fleet is expected to create around 360 new direct jobs for BAE Systems Australia over the next 10 years, contributing an estimated $70 million to GDP by 2025.
“This is about protecting and securing Australia’s interests but it’s also creating jobs and driving investment right here in the Hunter and across the country too,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
“This induction demonstrates the world leading capability of our local defence industry here in Australia. We want to give as many opportunities to Australian companies as possible which is why there’s already more than 50 local companies sharing in $2.7 billion worth of contracts as part of the F-35 Program.
“As we recover from the COVID recession a key plank of our Economic Recovery Plan is our $270 billion investment in Defence capability over the next decade and our $65 billion commitment in air capabilities which includes the Joint Strike Fighter Program. This investment is keeping Australians safe and secure while creating more jobs and more opportunities for businesses.”
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds CSC noted that up to four Australian F-35A aircraft were expected to undergo routine maintenance at the facility this year.
“The Morrison Government is unashamedly committed to building a robust sovereign defence industry,” Minister Reynolds said.
“We are building our sovereign defence capabilities. We now have 41 fully trained RAAF pilots, nine of whom trained on home soil at RAAF Base Williamtown. We also have more than 225 trained technicians as the RAAF’s F-35A maintenance capability continues to develop.”
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price added that the program had helped the local community withstand the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In 2020, job losses in the aeronautics industry due to COVID-19 resulted in the closure of Jetstar’s aircraft maintenance facility here in Newcastle, and many other regional facilities,” Minister Price said.
“BAESA recently hired 25 former Jetstar employees who had been made redundant as a result of the pandemic.
“Not only have these technical workers been retained in the local Hunter aviation industry, but they will also help Defence build its sovereign sustainment capability as the fleet continues to grow.”
BAESA CEO Gabby Costigan said the prime is privileged to contribute program.
“We look forward to delivering a critical maintenance capability and continuing to partner with the RAAF, the Department of Defence, Lockheed Martin and Defence industry to support the global F-35 program," the CEO said.
“Importantly, this new work will deliver a real boost to this region through new jobs and opportunities for local businesses.”
BAE Systems has been contracted by the F-35 Joint Program Office for the Regional Airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade (MRO&U), various Regional Component MRO&U and the Regional Warehouse.