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First RAAF F-35 takes shape

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 9, 2013
Jeff Babione, LM deputy program manager of the F-35 Program and the RAAF's AVM Kym Osley, program manager for new air Combat capability in front of AU-1. (LM)
Jeff Babione, LM deputy program manager of the F-35 Program and the Defence’s AVM Kym Osley, program manager for New Air Combat Capability in front of AU-1. (LM)

The first F-35 for Australia, AU-1, has entered Lockheed Martin’s final assembly line, with the aircraft now undergoing the mate process where its fuselage and wings are joined.

After mate AU-1 will  make its way down the Fort Worth assembly line and roll out of the factory for handover to the RAAF in 2014.

Australia has so far contracted to buy two of an initial batch of 14 F-35s. A decision on further F-35s is expected next year, while in the meantime AU-1 and sistership AU-2 will be based in the US for pilot training.

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Meanwhile, the F-35 fleet  has surpassed 10,000 flight hours.

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13 Comments

  • Raymond

    says:

    Bring it on… can’t wait!

  • paul davis

    says:

    Hopefully ours can turn better than the rest.

  • Dan

    says:

    This will be interesting to see if the RAAF will get the 100 planes it requires.

  • ALix

    says:

    This is great!! Not long now 🙂

  • Raymond

    says:

    Dan – unlikely, not for a long time anyway… not with 36 Super Hornets / Growlers in stock as well.

  • Dee

    says:

    Raymond – it also depends on what Political party holds power in the near future–LNP, we could possibly get the full quota.—Labor, we will probably get 72 if lucky.

  • Darren

    says:

    While it is exciting to be getting a new aircraft, the most impostant issue is completion of flight testing and placing a mature system into service. I think that everyone can see potential. And yes there are some areas where this aircraft will fall short of the mark in some area(s). They all do. Hopefully as this potential is realised there will be more confidence moving forward with more orders across all users (however this will depend on volume/price and the US situation!) As to the full 100? I doubt it with the Supers/Growlers. We might buy some near end of production to replace tired airframes, but with the next generation of stealth UAV coming along I think we might see this replace some of the manned airframes. Perhaps these will be a replacement for the Supers? Who knows? Right now it is just speculation.

  • John N

    says:

    Good to see AU-1 working its way down the assembly line, not long till it and AU-2 are flying in the US, but still quiet a few years till they and the rest of the first squadron touch down here in Oz.

    Will we see 100 F-35’s in RAAF service? The answer to that probably won’t be known till the latter 2020’s. If the new Government follows the previous Governments last Defence White Paper, which I think they may in regard to the Air Combat fleet, that will be a decision that won’t have to be taken for at least another 14 years or so, that’s another 4 or 5 election cycles till some future Government has no choice but to make that decision!

    And I think it will also depend on how hard the RAAF is able to push, or convince, future Governments that a single type fleet is the way it wants to go.

    How long the Super Hornets stay in RAAF service will also depend a lot on how long the USN intends to keep them in service, if they start withdrawing them from around 2030 for example, the RAAF probably won’t be far behind. I don’t think the RAAF will want to be a ‘sole’ operator again, as it did with the F-111 for more than a dozen years, it’s a big engineering task and expensive too, to maintain a small fleet all on your own.

    As to the Growler, it will no doubt have a longer life in the USN, but my question would be, if at some point into the Growlers life, the Next Gen Jammer (NGJ) pods are introduced, will the RAAF integrate them onto the Growler or not? Or will they want that capability added to the single type F-35 Fleet?

    If as reported, the F-35 has a strong inbuilt Electronic Warfare capability that doesn’t need any special modifications (eg, Super Hornet mod to Growler variant) that would be required to be made for it to carry the NGJ, then I could see a time in the future where the RAAF also attempts to convince the Government of the day that a single fleet of a ‘100ish’ F-35’s will cover air defence, strike, maritime strike and electronic warfare all in the one airframe, just plug in the various weapons load or jamming pods as necessary!

    Of course anything can happen in the future, but if I had to make a prediction today, I’d say that by the early 2020’s we will see the 71 Classic Hornet’s replaced by the 72 F-35’s (which I think is a no brainer), somewhere around 2030 the 24 Super Hornets will be replaced by an approximate same number of F-35’s (there’s the approximate 100 F-35’s the RAAF wants) and possibly not long after that the Growlers withdrawn and the NGJ pods moved over and spread around the F-35 fleet.

    Anyway, a lot of years between now and then, just have to wait and see!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Andrew McLaughlin

    says:

    John – ever thought about starting your own blog?

  • John N

    says:

    Hi Andrew, no I haven’t, why do you ask?

  • Andrew McLaughlin

    says:

    Oh…just wondering…

  • Raymond

    says:

    Dee – I share your sentiments…

  • Raymond

    says:

    Andrew – LOL! 😀 😀

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