First flights for fourth and fifth RAAF F-35s

A35-004 wears 2OCU tail markings. Photo – Caulun Belcher

The RAAF’s fourth and fifth Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs have made their first flights.

Photographer Caulun Belcher captured these images of A35-004 – above – and A35-005 – below – during their first flights, from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas on December 14 and January 23, respectively.

After test and acceptance flights from Forth Worth the aircraft were due to be delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona to be used for pilot and maintainer training, before being permanently relocated to Australia.

Like the first two RAAF F-35As, A35-004 and A35-005 wear the tail markings of 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2COU), unlike F-35A A35-003, which wears the tail markings of 3 Squadron, which is standing up at Luke as the first RAAF F-35 operational unit.

A35-005 with an F-16 flying chase. Photo – Caulun Belcher


  1. Brendon says

    Definitely exciting times.

    Even though 3 Sqn will be the first to make the transition to the F-35, except-003, it’s interesting to see majority of the first batch to be painted with 2OCU fin flash’s.

  2. Daryl says

    Production of our examples seems to be slow at best.Is this going to pick up at any stage.Exciting times for the RAAF indeed.

  3. Philip says

    The 2OCU (No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit) is the fighter training squadron of the RAAF, where pilots undergo final qualification in the fast-jet planes they will ultimately fly in operational squadrons. Those young pilots would have just qualified in the Hawks, and been assessed suitable (… or is that lucky?!) to fly F-35s. So it makes sense that the majority of the earlier F-35A for the RAAF are planes destined for that 2OCU squadron. They will be trained by RAAF trainers (who themselves are being qualified in the F35A currently in the USA), before they move onto newer Lightning IIs in the RAAF operational squadrons.

  4. Chris says

    Our F-35 production schedule is as follows based on our order schedule across multiple production rate blocks:

    2 aircraft in 2017;
    8 aircraft in 2018;
    8 aircraft in 2019;
    15 aircraft in 2020;
    15 aircraft in 2021;
    15 aircraft in 2022; and
    9 aircraft in 2023.

    The further up the production rate and into LRIP (Low Rate Production) your orders are, the more expensive the airframe is. The further down, the cheaper they are.

  5. Jasonp says

    The tail markings probably have little to do with what squadrons the jets will end up in, From what I’ve read, 3Sqn is scheduled to have 8-10 jets on strength before 2OCU gets its first. As with classic Hornet, the jets will probably belong to 81WG and be used by the squadrons as required.

  6. Red Barron says

    Play nice guys. I enjoy reading people’s comments and knowledge. We don’t want AA locking down the comments section because of a few little difference of opinions. But please keep sharing all your valuable information that some people maybe privvy to.

  7. says

    Red Barron, I’m sure none of us on this forum would deliberately insult anyone to just go out of their way to be malicious. Everyone’s posts should be respected and opinions to be respected as well. I see no problem in having a little sarcasm and tounge in cheek jokes to add some humor and colour. Having a healthy robust debate at times should be welcomed. Cheers.

  8. harry says

    Paul – agree, but I have got quite a bit of condescension from one particular commentator (not you) saying the most snide remarks about really basic stuff

  9. Mick C says

    I think what would happen is while the Aircraft and Pilots belong to 3 sqn the trg will be run by 2OCU.

  10. John N says

    Red Barron,

    Agree. It’s all good and healthy to have differing points of view and offer those differing views, agree or don’t agree or something else to add, all good.

    Unfortunately there is a small minority here attempting to play the man and not the ball, which is a bit immature. Anyway, that’s up to the good folk here at AA to moderate as they see fit.


    Regarding your production schedule, all accurate except that the first two airframes were delivered by end of 2014, not during 2017.


    Yes on the surface the deliveries might appear ‘slow’. when the first 14 airframes were approved, my understanding was that originally all 14 would be procured from earlier production Lots, but 12 were deferred, in the end the first two were procured for delivery in 2014 (LRIP 6) and the remaining 12 were deferred to later Lots.

    As it stands now, the current 8 airframes are being procured from LRIP 10 (all delivered by end 2018), and the remainder in the following five (5) production lots through to the end of 2023.

    And by the end of 2023 the RAAF will be the first of the partner nations (including the three US services) to actually have all of their approved airframes delivered (yes there is still the potential of that last 28 batch of airframes to replace the Super Hornets, but that decision is still not due until around the mid 2020s).

    Mick C,

    You are probably correct, I don’t think it really matters what Sqn marking is actually painted on the airframe tail.

    Regardless of that, the order of the transition is: 3Sqn, 2OCU, 77Sqn and lastly Tindal based 75Sqn.


    John N

  11. Harry says

    On balance, can’t wait till we get the first sqn up! But…

    Did anyone catch the article in the Australian the article about the recent US GAO OT&E report on the F-35 with claims of 200+ deficiencies as yet still not corrected? Or the defence news article for the new USAF acquisition and sustainment head describing that the pentagon can’t afford the F-35 sustainment cost…

    Maybe still a way to go before they are truly potent, or are there going to be delays in the future due to ongoing testing still finding faults with the as yet un-finalised product?

    (Just a cheeky red rag to the F-35 fan bulls out there 🙂

  12. Mick C says

    If todays so called.Defence Newspaper reporters said the sky was Blue i would have to go outside to check for myself. The standard of Defence reporting iin the daily rags* in this Country has become an absolute joke.
    I wouldn’t take any notice of any such claim without checking at least 3 more reputable sources.

    *I don’t include specialist publications like AA.

  13. Harry says

    Got a point Mick, for every article there’s another 10 positive and another 10 negative opinions

  14. Harry says

    Although Mick, you do know the US GAO OT&E report and the pentagon statement aren’t ‘online articles’ but official documents

  15. Chris Adam says

    How far behind are tail numbers 001 and 002 in Software?

    Are 003 and 004 in a similar state?

    How much will it cost the Australian Taxpayer to complete these tasks?