Third RAAF F-35 completes production

The Royal Australian Air Force’s third F-35A Lightning II aircraft has rolled off the assembly line at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ production facility in Fort Worth.

The aircraft, A35-003, wears 3 Squadron markings which were applied in early November, the final stage in the production process ahead of several weeks of ground and flight testing.

The jet is due to be delivered to Luke Air Force Base in early 2018 to be used for pilot and maintainer training, before being permanently relocated to Australia in 2020.

3 Squadron is due to become the first RAAF F-35 operational unit.


  1. Scott says

    That top picture is one of the “coolest” I’ve every seen in your mag, been reading if for over 25 years, I’d put that one at #1, grey on grey!

  2. Tomcat Terry says

    Agree Scott. What a great looking plane and what unprecedented capability is coming down under soon in 2020.
    Can’t wait!

  3. John N says

    Tomcat Terry,

    Yes the plan is for IOC in 2020, but the first to arrive and ‘stay’ in country is actually late next year, 2018.

    To the best of my knowledge the delivery program schedule is as follows (and starting with AU-1 & -2):

    * two airframes (2014) – AU-1 and -2 to the training squadron in the US
    * eight airframes (2018) – six airframes to join -1 and -2 at the US training Squadron, and two airframes to arrive in Australia end of 2018
    * eight airframes (2019) – Direct to Australia
    * fifteen airframes (2020) – Direct to Australia
    * fifteen airframes (2021) – Direct to Australia
    * fifteen airframes (2022) – Direct to Australia
    * nine airframes (2023) – Direct to Australia

    End of 2020 there should be 25 airframes in Australia (plus 8 in the US at the training squadron), haven’t seen exactly when those 8 airframes in the US training squadron are due to arrive, might not be until the last of the later production airframes arrive, but should all be here by end of 2023.

    By the time we get to the end of 2023 all 72 airframes will have been produced and delivered by LM to the RAAF (8 direct to the International Training Squadron in the US, and the other 64 airframes direct to Australia).

    I don’t think it will be long before we hear the news that 3 Sqn has parked it’s Classic Hornets (they will go into the overall pool of airframes until the Classic fleet is completely retired), and head off to the US to start getting ready for the initial stand up of the ‘new’ 3 Sqn with its growing fleet of F-35A.

    Certainly exciting times for the boys and girls who will get to fly (and play) with their new shiny toys!!


    John N

  4. Boleropilot says

    a little off topic, but of interest to military aviation fans – I was working on our old Queenslander (about 30km South of Amberley) and I heard something unusual – not a sound I had heard before – ran out to the side of the house and saw two huge aircraft with fully extended wings that looked like supersized F-111s – then the penny dropped…

    never seen B1s before and the sight of two of them on descent into Amberley was just awesome – apparently they’ll be here for a couple of weeks (along with some F-22s) – hoping for some more great sightings…

  5. Philip says

    Great shot of the Aussie-made tail too.
    The Squadron marking is way cool with the Southern Cross embedded in the graphic. Sweet.

  6. ONeil says

    I really hope this plane works as advertised, I accept it’s going to be ridiculously expensive but as long as it does the job of defending the country and bringing our pilots home in one piece then I’ll be able to live with it.

  7. breeder says

    re classic hornets as mentioned above. can anyone tell me if the GE 414 JET engines has been tried in them. the classics have GE 404 engines but the 414 was designed to fit into the same space as a 404. The 414 is fitted to the bigger F18 hornet and the 404 to the f 18 classic. The 414 was designed as interchangeable with the 404 but i cant find anything on the net about whether this has ever occurred or been tried..

  8. says

    Breeder, the 414 I think would be too powerful for the classics. This would put excessive strain on the airframe. Just my opinion. Cheers.

  9. Dave says

    Wow an over priced & already out of date plane we paid for & get it in 2020. Make that 2025. Or even later. We should have bought the f22 when we had the chance. At least that thing can beat a fully loaded with 2 wing tanks f16 in a dogfight unlike the f35 which has proved nothing it claimed to yet.

  10. Boleropilot says

    is it true that a 4 ship of new F22s on a delivery flight had complete computer shutdown when they crossed the international dateline?

    and another 4 behind them turned around and avoided the same computer “glitch”?

    first four were apparently all landed without loss but there would have been some serious pucker going on there for a while…

  11. Trev says

    Wow Dave,

    Such a short comment by you but with so much incorrect information from one end to the other. Lets focus on one point you raised. When did Australia ever have the opportunity to purchase the F-22? Unless you have information that the rest of us don’t have, the F-22 was forbidden by the US Government from being offered for foreign sale.

    Try and not take the word of keyboard warriors who rubbish the F-35 but have no real knowedge of the capabilities of the aircraft. The only difference with the development issues of this aircraft to aircraft of the past is the F-35 is in the age of the internet where anything and everything is reported on no matter if it is fact or fiction.

  12. says

    Can we stop this stupid F-22 for Australia! It was never offered because of its tech. That glitch was fixed ages ago. Please can we move on yes!!

  13. Cameron says

    Yeah Dave get your facts right f22 is going to no one outside of USA.
    F35 just one flown by a navy pilot shot down two f15’s during war games flown by combat vet airforce pilots. Who said later that they didn’t even know he was there until it was too late. F35 said it was like a Sunday outing.
    Take your childish politics back to the student union you spent to much time in.

  14. Harry says

    Actually guys there was a small fraction of a window of opportunity where for arguments sake we could have maybe purchased it. Except as Mick says, we never put in a request for it. The bill barring foreign F-22 sales came shortly thereafter, so theoretically Australia, if it had asked, could have got them, maybe… but probably not because, like those who passed the bill banning foreign sales those very same members could’ve blocked any deal for the F-22s. I suppose its just a technical possibility rather than an actual probability but hey, semantics.

  15. Mick C says

    Richard James
    the chances of the RNZAF restarting the ACF are negligible, I know the new DEFMIN is a fan of restarting this capability but at the sort of cost of even 2nd hand f-18s or 16s his chances aren’t that great, f-35s not in a million years.

  16. Jumbo says

    The F22, whilst a great air superiority fighter, doesn’t fit the list of requirements of the RAAF, nowhere near like the F35 does. Having a truly 5th Gen multi-role capable aircraft is going to be a game changer, and we’ll all look back at the naysayers and laugh in due course. With a fleet of Supers, Growlers and now JSF, these are exciting times for such a small but potent defence force, that’s for sure! Let’s hope the necessary network integration with incoming Navy and potentially Army assets has already been examined and thought out, particularly with the lessons we’ve learnt over the last 2 decades!

  17. Derrick says

    It’s interesting that the first two Australian F-35 will never see combat, software and hardware restrictions will make them into Australia most expensive trainer. The next question will be, will the RAAF be buying more in the future

  18. Mick C says

    Only 2 negative comments about the F-35, remember a time when we would have had 10 by now. The public perception of this superb Aircraft is steadily changing as the hysteria dies down and better information is getting into the public.
    The number of countries buying the F-35 is steadily growing with Germany the latest to show interest to replace their Tornados.

  19. John N says


    Can you please post a credible link to back up the statement that the first two F-35A for the RAAF won’t be combat capable and will only see service life as trainers??

    Yes a few months back there was a report/suggestion that the US was considering what it would do with it’s early production airframes, upgrade some, all or not.

    But at the same time, the Defence Department here reported that both of the RAAF’s first two airframes (delivered from LRIP6 in 2014), had already been upgraded from Block 2B to Block 3i around 12 months ago.

    Those two airframes, AU-1 & -2, have already been upgraded, why wouldn’t they then be upgraded from Block 3i to Bock 3F??


    John N

  20. Errol Coultis says


    Your information is incorrect. RAAF did not buy F-35 aircraft that will require the ‘expensive’ upgrades you refer to. They have already confirmed publicly these aircraft will be upgraded to the full Block 3F IOC capability standard and do require the extensive range of hardware and software upgrades earlier build aircraft do, to reach 3F capability.

    However you raise an interesting point. Virtually every fighter suffers from this issue. Eurofighter Tranche 1 can’t easily be upgraded to the ‘operational’ Tranche 3 standard to the point Austria is looking at dumping the capability entirely and pursuing another option.

    The same issue affects early F-16 models, JAS-39 A/B models and most other fighters too.

    But only in the case of the F-35 is this an apparent issue. It’s an interesting and telling perspective.

  21. says

    The F-35 will be the most lethal fighters around. I think it will still take a fair bit of time to sort out all the bugs tho. Once that happens it will be fantastic..