RAAF accepts three more F-35As

A35-003 after arriving at Luke AFB. (Defence)

The RAAF has formally accepted three more F-35As from Lockheed Martin at the Integrated Training Centre at Luke AFB in Arizona.

After rolling out and taking flight for the first time in December and January, F-35As A35-003, 004 and 005 were accepted into the ITC in early March. The new aircraft are the first JSF international partner aircraft to be delivered with the latest Block 3F operational flight program software load.

The RAAF’s first two F-35As have been at Luke AFB for three years and were recently inducted into the USAF’s Ogden Logistics Center at Hill AFB in Utah to receive various structural, hardware and software upgrades to bring them up to the current standard.

3SQN CO WGCDR Darren Clare standing in front of A35-003. (Defence)

“These latest aircraft are fitted with the program’s final software system, which unlocks the aircraft’s full war-fighting potential including weapons, mission systems and flight performance,” Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne said in a statement on Monday.

“Five more aircraft are scheduled for delivery by the end of 2018.”

A growing RAAF F-35 pilot and maintenance cadre from 3SQN is based at Luke AFB as part of the combined 61st Fighter Squadron.

As 3SQN builds experience with the jet, it is expected to go through its first F-35A airworthiness board in August, before preparing to bring the first two aircraft home to RAAF Williamtown in December to commence Australian-specific validation and verification activities.

Australia has committed to buying 72 F-35As under Project AIR 6000 Phases 2A/2B, which are scheduled to be delivered by 2023 to replace the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Hornets. A further 30 or so may in time be ordered under AIR 6000 Phase 2C to replace the F/A-18F Super Hornets.

A35-005 after arriving at Luke AFB. (Defence)


  1. says

    Looking great there RAAF. Might head to Willy to see our first jets arrive. Hopefully we get a full demo at Avalon next year.

  2. Terry says

    A possible 100 fighters. Who are we expecting to fight? Don’t tell me those Hayman Islanders are getting restless again!!

  3. Stephen Bachman says

    Be intresting to see what they bring to the table. Should shut the nay sayers up

  4. Derrick says

    Good to read that 001 and 002 have been updated and upgraded to the same levels as the current fleet.

  5. jasonp says

    Great to see 3F on the fleet so early, IOC was originally meant to be 3i, finally coming good!

  6. Tony Low says

    Terry should understand that once we are in a position of strength we are. near on guarantee that we not ever be under threat from another country. Just hope that the F35s lives up to our expectations

  7. Davidgypsy says

    I must be getting old: Spitfire, Hurricane, Meteor, Vampire, Sabre, Mirage, Phantom, FA/18/A/B, F35 (plus numerous lesser known aircraft) in my lifetime. The performance/technology advancement is amazing. I will call it quits with the F35!


    26 years RAAF engineering

  8. B. Harrison says

    After reports that China is wanting to place a naval base on Vanuatu, 72-100 F-35’s seems a tad paltry, don’t you think?

  9. Ian Morris says

    Wow… so we have 5 aircraft in total since the aircraft first flew in 2006…and 8 years plus after ordering the aircraft in 2009. Plus they are still not the full version. Such a joke of a program.

  10. Smithy says

    @Ian Morris

    How many 5th gen fighter programmes have you produced, acquired, and received IOC on in your life?

    Good things take time mate, be thankful you live in a county that can have these remarkable aircraft and the remarkable people that will fly them to protect and serve you.

  11. Shaun says

    Combined with the tankers, super hornets and new naval hardware any base on Vanuatu is going to get real lonely, real quick.

  12. Guy says

    Bring on the F-35 A Pity come with such a hefty Price Tag what doesn’t these days anyway might makes right

  13. TwinTiger says

    Straying off topic with the rest of you …

    I wonder how NZ (or Fiji or Tonga or Samoa) might take a Chinese base located just north of Auckland. Maybe it is time to reassess their homeland capabilities by air and sea too …

  14. Gerard. says

    What the Australian Defence Force need urgently is an Aircraft Carrier to bring those F35 to better protect our Territorial Sea as we are Surrounded by Seas and Our Submarines and Warships are not enough in case of any attack coming from Asia so we could have an Advance Air Force Base and use those New Advanced Technologies of the F35 to Deffend and Act fast .

    But we should have bought the French Rafale instead of the F35 with so many issues not yet fixed and have no been in any Combat , Not been Tested so far on any Battlefield as the Multipurpose Rafale has .

  15. Raymond says

    Terry – isn’t ignorance bliss? The PRC perhaps? Been reading the news for the last few years… months… weeks… days even?

    The best defence is a good offence, and a government’s first priority and number one responsibility is the defence and sovereignty of that nation. 100 fighter jets is the bare minimum. Compare this to other countries, such as Singapore or Israel for example, with large numbers of very capable combat aircraft defending a much smaller area and population. This huge country demands every one of those F-35s, plus some.

  16. Corey says

    With China wanting to build a base in Vanuatu along with other possible threats. Think it’s time to have a 2 fleet fighter Force. Keep the 100 F-35s but back them up with a decent fleet of Advanced Super Hornets and I mean the full Advanced Version, not the block III which we will be upgrading to. Also additional EA-18Gs and KC-30As. Heck, we’d need all the held and growth in the capacity we can get if they go ahead with it. Also @ AA the first Qantas A380 has been repainted. I thought a quick story would have been released.

  17. Markie Mark says


    Great comment. May we never need to see how capable these aircraft are.

  18. Marc says

    I use to live on Hayman Is for many years, back in the Ansett days, and I have no idea what rum you’re drinking.

  19. Grumpy says

    Maybe AA should start billing per letter, per word, per line for comments. They’d either make a fortune or some numpties would think twice before commenting .

  20. Stuart Brown says

    Those downplaying the F-35 joint strike fighter, ought to look at the problems, Russia and China are having developing such capabilities, 100 stealthy network centric fighter bombers, is a huge strategic advantage. The Russians have only just restarted their stealth bomber project, the US, is ready to start production of their second version, we have the technological advantage. At 35 billion dollars, for 100 fighter bombers, 15 billion less than 12 Barracuda class submarines, much better value, true, AS 500 anti aircraft missiles might be able, to bring them down, maybe. But older aircraft, are a far easier target, ground radar suppression is far easier, when you can get into range of those radars, when more primative, more numerous systems, can’t touch you.

    As to an aircraft carrier, we’d have to buy the STOVL version, of the F-35 joint strike fighter, 10 billion dollars worth of engineering, plus at least a billion, modifying our helicopter carriers, reducing their usefulness, in terms of logistics tonnage, they can bring to any crisis. Though later, 16 years from now, in better budgetary constraints, maybe, costs would be lower, we’d be more used, to a somewhat similar system. We’d have to start on a project like that, in 9 years time, in spite of the usage base, that would already exist, for the systems.

  21. says

    Markie Mark, I can’t wait to see how they go in combat. Gerard, the Rafale? are you serious? And to those people who think we should have a carrier, I don’t think so. To many ship killer missiles out there now. It would only take one hit and there goes your carrier and F-35bs with it. B Harrison, we will always have backup from Singapore, Japan, and the US. Throw in SK as well and that’s a lot of hitting power👍

  22. Daryl says

    Canberra getting concerned about the Chinese moving onto a nearby pacific island,but gift them Darwin Harbour for 99 years.???

  23. PAUL says

    NZ needs to step up its game & get those F16’s or better F35’s. No excuses! Helen Clarke is long gone.

    Basic training can be done on the RNZAF T6 Texan & pay for advanced training with the RAAF, until the valuable fast jet in service knowledge is restored. An Aircraft carrier for OZ no, too risky & can be taken out with 1 missile, The Rafale & Eurofighter are both superb aircraft but only if you reside close to Europe or buy several types like the Gulf countries do. For the RAAF its F35’s & Advanced supers going forward. For next generation strike the F15SE is a great aircraft but the RAAF could get that F111 capability back with a few B21’s in future.

  24. says

    Stuart Brown, dead right there mate. Russia is years away and China s so called stealth jets are a total laugh. Nothing to fear when you are 25 years ahead tech wise!

  25. Stu Bee says

    @GeoffSharp I couldn’t see the Australian Govt selling off the RAAF to the Chinese. Maybe
    a long term lease to a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese Govt though…

  26. TwinTiger says

    I understand the Vanuatu issue is now a non-event?

    Hysteria aside, perhaps the episode has helped the new NZ Govt to move closer to formally agreeing to the RSAF F-15SG training rotation though NZ? Anyone with an update?

  27. mike9 says

    still not up to scratch according to the US senate appropriations committee . overweight under performs in all axis. no range . and that’s from their report, not my opinion. apparently it cannot download the data to be able to see what’s happening around its envelope. yeah great . And Vanuatu was a total beat up by the Fairfax media. Australia has along history of buying overpriced duds.

  28. says

    Twin Tiger, the Vanuatu is an event and will happen. The Sing rotation of the SG will go ahead. The new NZ PM is very pro refugee and a lot like Clarke, so MZ acquiring a fast jet force is dead in the water. Very very sad circumstances there still. Great to see the 35 getting upgraded to 3F software. Who wants to come to Willy to see them arrive? I’ll shout the beer😁

  29. says

    Mike9, I think Australia has been great with their fast jet purchases. I know Australia would have purchased the F-15 over the classic, but the government at the time didn’t want to upset Indonesia. That really ticked me off because oh, we can’t upset Indonesia. That was a very inadequate soft political move as to not irritate our neighbors. We got the classic instead and has turned out to be fantastic. The supers and Growlers was a great buy because of a quick and easy fit, and gave us a real tech boost, which has given us a taste of or stepping stone to 5th gen world. I was always sitting on the fence of the JSF, but spoke to one of Australia’s best test pilots. He told me the 35 is a no brainer and of course you would listen to a guy like that. Yes the JSF need work in quite a few areas, but it will come good. The element of surprise is everything you need in combat. Just him and my opinions of course. Cheers.

  30. Trogdor says


    I’ve never heard that angle re the F-15 purchase, the major reason was simply that it was more expensive and we didn’t need the capability over the Hornet. In defence of Australia, the RAAF was also more likely to be working with the US Navy rather than the USAF, therefore having a fighter in common was a logistical advantage.

    Interestingly we were offered Tomcats at a discount, but they were rejected as being too heavy and complex.

  31. jasonp says

    Paul, the F-15 was dropped early in the Mirage replacement program mainly because it had no air-to-ground or maritime strike capability, not just because of Indonesia. The F-15E was still a few years away, and the C only had a theoretical dumb bomb capability. which the USAF has never put into practice.

  32. Daryl says

    Trogdor,I heard the Tomcat story myself many years ago from an old navy type.I think it was the Iranian order that was getting looked at ,due to the deteriorating situation in Iran.Think the Iranians had the upper hand in that fight,due to their significant dollar contribution to the R&D of that type.I think this came about in part because the USN had stopped(or was winding back) funding Grummans development.Never heard the story again until your post.

  33. says

    Jasonp, the RAAF was told as well about the F-15 E but still the RAAF was apprehensive about being the big kids on the block and would definitely not stir up our neighbourhood with this. On the other hand the RAAF really liked the hornet because of the hi alpha capabilities it hadGetting back to the 15E , that was all going to be funded by Boeing and the USAF, so it wouldn’t have cost as much to whack the extras on it.

  34. Mike says

    The F-15 was indeed dropped by the RAAF much more for political reasons than it ever was for cost or capability considerations.

    Andrew McLaughlin’s own book “Hornets Down Under” states that point fairly clearly, as quoted below.

    “The F-15 decision was more intriguing. Indeed, it’s possible that, had the political climate been right, the F-15 may well … be wearing RAAF roundels today. Of all the contenders, the Eagle came closest to meeting the range and performance requirements laid out in the RAAF RFP, and it wasn’t as expensive as many at the time were led to believe.”

    “However there were factions within the defence bureaucracy who thought the strategic situation in the mid to late 1970s was very secure and thought the F-15 was, if anything, too capable. They reasoned that the Eagle could present a destabilising influence in what was at the time, a very politically benign region.”

    “In the end, the F-15 reportedly got caught up in a power play between the defence force chiefs and civilian bureaucracy, and was reluctantly dropped by the chiefs in 1978…”

  35. John says

    A great flying advertisement for Australian taxpayers money badly spent.

    With limited range (unless you’re prepared to lose its stealth capabilities) its a ground support plane, and that means any invasion of Australia has already taken place before this plane can be used to its (full ?) potential.

    Completely useless in a dogfight and that means air superiority is lost to any invading force.

    Cannot carry many weapons without (once again) losing its stealth capabilities.

    And please don’t bother talking about its ability to refuel from KC-30s because it is still extremely limited and just as likely to bring invading air forces down on the refueling tanker.

    A dud plane entirely unsuitable for Australian needs ….. unless of course your happy sitting back and waiting to be invaded.

    Compare Su 57 @ $50 million and debate.

  36. John says

    “In September 2016 then-Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James certified to Congress that the F-35As to be delivered in fiscal year 2018 would have full combat capabilities. James was referring to the Block 3F aircraft to be produced this year. But according to the DOT&E report, the current much-delayed testing schedule means that won’t be possible—they’re not even close to combat-ready. Left unsaid in the report is the uncomfortable fact that the 359 F-35s funded before 2018 are also lacking combat capability.

    The F-35 contract mandates that it must match or exceed the combat capabilities of legacy aircraft, especially in the air-to-air, deep strike, and close air support missions. In the crucial close support mission, the venerable and battle-proven A-10 is one of the aircraft the F-35 was designed to replace. As of now, testing shows the F-35 is incapable of performing most of the functions required for an acceptable close support aircraft, functions the A-10 is performing daily in current combat.

    One of the many deficiencies reported is the F-35’s inability to reliably hit targets with its cannon. The problem is most pronounced with the Air Force’s F-35A, the version of the aircraft that would replace the A-10. This variant has an internally mounted cannon. The F-35B and F-35C both use an externally mounted cannon pod.

    “Flight testing of the different gun systems on the F-35 (internal gun for F-35A and external gun pods for the F-35B and F-35C) revealed problems with effectiveness, accuracy, pilot controls and gunsights displayed in the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS),” a footnote in the report states. “The synopsis and assessment of specific HMDS problems are classified.”

    Read more here :


  37. Harry says

    Hey Paul, and Mike, you are right about the Indonesian angle re: F-15, I’ve read that quote before too, but then what the hell was the F-111s about? If the the F-15s at the time weren’t strike aircraft and we turn around and get a long-range strike aircraft. How do they not threaten Indonesia? Of course they do. But even that doesn’t make sense because the Isreali’s turned there F-15s in strike aircraft almost immediately to good effect against Libya.

    Trogdor your also right… there were delusions that Australia would get another aircraft carrier and that the F-18s would be perfect for that role and we would work with the USN in carrier strike groups and all our dreams would come true,… kind of like the F-35

    Speaking of which, well I sincerely hope they will be what has been promised but the recent AT&E report (the audit agency of the US DOD) was scathing in its report of the F-35 and the ALIS program recently, yet again. They highlighted some 250+ major issues. E.G. ALIS still doesn’t work but restricts F-35 operations, weapons have been hardly tested, and the code (Block 3F) is still years away from completion, well at least according to them. Other so-called fan-boys see no wrong or risk in whats been quite a troubled development. Still no end in sight. I’ll be happy when we’ve got our squadrons in the air and we can judge for ourselves and adapt it as needed. Well if ALIS, that is LM, lets users.