The Royal Australian Air Force’s first two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters have made their official debut on Australian soil, landing at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon on Friday morning.
F-35As A35-001 and A35-002 touched down at approximately 1140am on Friday, flying in from RAAF Base Amberley where they had landed on Monday after their trans-Pacific ferry flight.
A35-002 (callsign Bolt 2) was the first to land, piloted by SQNLDR David Bell, followed by WGCDR Andrew Jackson, the first RAAF pilot to qualify on the aircraft, in A35-001 (Bolt 2).
Both aircraft have been based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona since late 2014, where they are part of the F-35 Integrated Training Centre’s pool of aircraft, and where WGCDR Jackson and SQNLDR Bell are instructor pilots.
The two jets ferried across the Pacific to Amberley via Hawaii and Guam accompanied by a RAAF KC-30A tanker-transport. They will participate in the Avalon Airshow flying display on both Saturday and Sunday, before returning to Amberley on Sunday afternoon. They will then depart Amberley on their return to Luke on March 8.
The first F-35s to be based permanently in Australia are two aircraft due to arrive in late 2018 for Australian operational test and evaluation. Other Australia F-35s will be delivered to Luke for pilot training from 2018 before ferrying to Australia from 2020.
All 72 F-35As Australia is acquiring are planned to be delivered to the RAAF by 2023, with the type replacing the F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornets of Williamtown-based 3 and 77 Squadron and 2 Operational Conversion Unit, and Tindal-based 75 Squadron.