RAAF’s first F-35s arrive at Avalon

A35-002 touches down at Avalon. (Paul Sadler)
A35-001 lands at Avalon. (Paul Sadler)

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).

SQNLDR David Bell and WGCDR Andrew Jackson soon after arriving at Avalon. (Paul Sadler)

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.

Taxiing into the Avalon Airshow static display line. (Paul Sadler)


Taxiing to awaiting dignitaries and media. (Paul Sadler)



  1. Darren says

    Spending all day Saturday at the airshow – can’t wait…

    I notice the F-35’s are not on the flying program according to the airshow website, but hopefully it’s more indicative than final.

    I’m actually most looking forward to seeing the F-22’s, with the F-35’s an added bonus that’s for sure.

  2. Bill Fitzsimons says

    I hope that someone is preparing a television program covering the event for those of us that could not make it to Avalon…

  3. Ian E says

    Avalon today (Friday) had long been on my bucket list- did not let me down. Simply fantastic and the F22 was spectacular as were all the displays and fly-overs etc. The event is so well organised esp. the parking. Made a wonderful day, well worth the wait. Seeing the F35 was a bonus, just a pity it did not fly.

  4. Alice says

    It is very strange that this event that make millions of dollars from public tickets, has never been shown live on TV.
    Sunday they may fly but no official notification for saturday.

  5. Charles James says

    Watching the two F35’s land right in front of us was sheer magic. To see a new combat aircraft enter service only happens a few times in ones lifetime. Saw the entry of the F18 into service back in the eighties. May not be around to see what will eventually replace the F35.

  6. Dee Thom says

    Agree with Alice, when will one of the free to air channels give the poor aircraft fanatics a 60 minute wrap of all the airframes flying during the show.

  7. B. Harrison says

    From all accounts, this Avalon is one out of the box. With the introduction of so many new aircraft and the centenary soon approaching of the RAAF, there is a real opportunity to highlight the aviation industry. Maybe someone can enlighten us on whether there will be a T.V special as it does appear the mainstream media have missed a real opportunity here. Hopefully the weather will be good for the flying displays.

  8. Gary says

    Dee and Alice,
    Why would they? They are too busy showing re-runs of the standard load of Reality TV crap to bother.

  9. Mick181 says

    Dee Thom
    Only when they can work out how to get a celebrity in the cockpit of a fighter to marry a farmer in a Jungle Kitchen while dancing under the stars.
    We are dreaming if we think we will ever see anything like this on free to air. A highlights Video is quite often released a few months later but thats about it. I even checked Twitter yesterday, a bit but not much. There is a 5min Video of the F-35s arriving on You tube.

  10. Raymond says

    The airshow today (Saturday) was very enjoyable. Great weather and an F-35 display (basic manoeuvres just to show the aircraft off in flight) to boot. Jacko was the pilot.

    Aircrew told me they were only informed of F-35 participation yesterday. I had been wondering why they couldn’t just show it off a bit in lieu of a proper airshow routine, and this is exactly what they did… Seeing and hearing the F-35 in flight was fantastic and certainly appreciated!

  11. Paul Sadler says

    After being at the show since Tuesday (and with a day to go), this year’s airshow would have to be, in my honest opinion, the best ever in terms of what’s on show.. From the RAAF’s first Hornet Growlers, to its first F-35 JSFs to the new PC-21s, there’s lots of new aircraft making their debuts.

    The weather (luckily) has been superb and have seen big crowds particularly during the trade halls. I can’t remember the time when the trade halls were that full as they were this week.

    Plus we say goodbye to Navy’s Squirrels this Airshow, which retire this December. Plus it’s S-70B Seahawks too won’t be at Avalon 2019.

    If you’re in Melbourne tomorrow, you’d be mad not to go to this year’s Australian International Airshow!

  12. Kev Rowe says

    Avalon today.(Saturday).. F35 flew today and will again tomorrow (Sunday)..
    Neither of the pilots is display qualified so it just flew several circuits and overshoots.. Not a full handling display but MAGIC all the same.. And well appreciated by the crowd….

  13. Sim330 says

    Certainly was awesome, again. The JSF flying was a pleasant surprise, full marks to USAF and RAAF for that and its presence. I thought the F16 was the loudest jet, until the JSF did its flight, geez it was loud, suprising for an ultra modern jet.
    The organization of the parking was again great, what lets that down though is getting out at the end of the day, terribly unorganized, took me and others well over an hour to get out of the car park and on the street -the only negative of the event. Great also to see the Apache and some F15s after years of absence. Where are the Russian Jets though? (Even longer absence)

  14. John Delahunty says

    Attended Avalon on Saturday. Fantastic all day flying including the F35. Just great to see them flying and on display. Best Air show in years, well done to all those volunteers who are the backbone of Australia in so many ways!

  15. Mick181 says

    With the current tension between the West,& Russia the Russians just aren’t sending aircraft to these airshows, don’t think any went to Farnborough last year either.

  16. Paul Hogan says

    Unfortunately the F-35 didn’t fly on Sunday. Their departure was delayed until Today (Monday), due to lightening on the flight path from Avalon to Amberley, and the lack of lightening protection on the Lightening (ironic really). They did not have permission to do any other flights.

  17. Andrew E says

    Attended the airshow on sunday 5/3 – was well presented and had an overall good day – however 2 shows were not conducted, The F35 did not fly at all due to a storm in queensland ..? the F35 apparently does not have lightning protection which i find ironic considering the cost of the plane and also its name.
    I don’t pretend to be a professional on the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the reason why it couldn’t fly – however i do not understand why it could not do a display in melbourne and then re-land?
    There was also a scheduled 4 x F/A 18 display to be the last show of the day ( which i was really looking forward to) however this did not occur, with no comment from the organisers. Instead we were left with the roulettes which are great – but they need new aircraft.

  18. TimC69 says

    Went on Saturday & was blown away by the RAAF presence, an F22 Raptor pilot gave my 16 year old son his “F22 Display Team” arm patch needless to say the lad was stoked!

    Our air force is in great shape and with the new capabilities coming online in the next decade or so will be one of the most formidable in the world.

  19. Rudi Broekhuizen says

    I went on the first trade day and payed some $130,- to attend a conference fro 2 hours. Once finished we were basically kicked out and told we could only stay in the public areas.
    Paid $15,- for a hotdog and a juice but nowhere to sit or any covered area in the shade to be found.
    Very Poorly organised is my direct comment.

  20. Jasonp says

    Why would they do a TV show? That would only dilute the gate takings – business 101!

  21. Murray Howlett says

    Doesn’t the Antonov AN-124 count as a Russian jet? Even if it was only on ground display.

  22. Jasonp says

    The An-124 was only on display because Boeing had leased it to transport the Apache to Avalon.