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F-35 rollout highlight’s RAAF’s “greatest opportunity for evolutionary change”

written by australianaviation.com.au | July 25, 2014

AU-1, the first of a planned 72 F-35s for the RAAF.
AU-1 wears 2OCU markings.

Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown has told the rollout ceremony of the first RAAF F-35 that the aircraft represents the “greatest evolutionary change” in Australian military aviation history.

The first of a planned fleet of 72 F-35A Lightnings was revealed to dignitaries and invited guests at a “rollout celebration” at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facilities on Thursday, and represents the most significant milestone in Australia’s acquisition of the sometimes controversial fighter aircraft.

“Today represents a very significant day for the Royal Australian Air Force as we step down as the fourth nation in the world to take delivery of a fifth generation aircraft, and that enables the transition of the Australian Defence Force into a fifth generation defence force,” Air Marshal Brown said.

“The F-35 is perhaps the greatest opportunity for evolutionary change the RAAF has been presented. We’re introducing into service a revolutionary capability, and our evolution as a force must align with the opportunities this offers us.”

Australia’s first two F-35s – AU-1, which was the focal point of the rollout event, and AU-2 – have both completed final assembly and painting and are due to fly in coming weeks. They are due to be formally handed over to the RAAF in coming months before being delivered to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where from early 2015 they will operate as part of a training pool of aircraft there.


Beyond the first two aircraft, subsequent jets will be delivered from 2017 through until 2022. But F-35s won’t arrive in Australia until late 2018 or early 2019, when the RAAF begins its own operational test & evaluation process.

“Like any revolutionary capability its potential to generate effects beyond the mainstream will have far reaching impacts in any future application,” CAF said.

The Australian government was represented at the rollout event by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, while Lockheed Martin chairman, president and CEO Marillyn Hewson, Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall also spoke at the event.

CAF speaks at the F-35 rollout "celebration"
Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown speaks at the F-35 rollout “celebration”, watched on by Orlando Carvalho, Frank Kendall, Marillyn Hewson and Mathias Cormann.
Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, speaks at the rollout event.
Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, speaks at the rollout event.


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Comments (25)

  • Michael Guerin


    These heaps of junk will end up like the Seasprites- we’ll try for years to get them to work, but end up returning them, losing billions in the process. The Advanced Super Hornet is looking better every day.

  • Marco


    This is a big loss of money for nothing! This aircraft have a lot of big problems!

  • craig simpson


    I like the hornet as much as the next guy but the 35a is a superior aircraft vs either of the hornets. I created an excel sheet to compare common known features of the 3 aircraft and the 35a beats or equals the 18’s everywhere. The 35B and C do fail vs the hornet due to there extra weight and reduced capability airframe but the A doesn’t. It is a slim air force fighter vs the heavier B and C variants. Ok so it is no F22 but we never had an F22 to begin with.

  • craig simpson


    Think of the 35a as a f16 with stealth and more range.

  • Raymond


    Michael Guerin, the Seasprite acquisition process was completely different to the F-35 program and there is no correlation. Why make simplistic and silly comments? You just look ignorant and biased.

  • Jason


    Then just like the Seasprites NZ can buy them!……………yea right

  • Peter Meehan


    Will an aviation journo please define the battle space roll of the Lightning 11 and how it will survive the ‘grey’ of war?

  • Wayne


    The Ozzie bogans are at it again.

    The F-111 was cutting edge and had development issues but served us well for nearly 40 years. The F/A-18A Hornet had its issues but has been a great servant to our nation for nearly 30 years.

    The Seasprite had nothing to do with the actual aircraft but rather the complexity of what we tried to put in it on a one-off basis. The Kiwis will enjoy this machine now it is configured more or less how it was designed.

    The F-35 is the only Western production fighter that offers low observability and precision strike etc. The true capabilities have not been revealed I can assure you…

  • alex nation


    seriously that money could have gone to something useful like a fleet of 100+ Eurofighter typhoon’s to work along side the EA-18G growlers the air force spent so much on, combining two aircraft like that especially when you already have the growlers would be more efficient than one F-35 not to mention a higher survival rate. its times like these that make you wonder what type of paint thinner they were sniffing when they thought of that!

  • Aero guy


    What a lazy old joke!! I cant believe we are still in the game to receive this aircraft, why are they calling this a hand over! It hasn’t even flown yet!. Won`t even be here till 2018-19! Really!

    This aircraft really has no extra performance over super Hornet just compare the figures.

    I ‘am a 3rd generation aircraft designer / builder here in Australia and we have seen a rapid decline in government support in all aspects of aviation in Australia, largly over the past 10 years. That’s why we are loosing our iconic airport’s and businesses. that the reality.

    As Australians we need to step up and start creating our own fighter programs just like we did in and after the 2nd world war, some of those aircraft are still regarded worldwide as some of the best performing & built aircraft of there time. We need the Australian Government to start supporting our Aviation industry here and not off shore. We have some really talented people in this country and we don’t even use them or gain from there knowledge.

    I Just believe we need to have the right people in government that know what there doing when making these decisions and spending our money, not pretending to know what there doing!

    To The Australian Government: Please help to bring life back into Aviation within Australia & also bring this fighter manufacturing sector home again!

  • Gerald Casimatis


    There are probably more reasons for obtaining F-35s than can be mentioned in this forum. Many of these have been eluded to by Australian Aviation and further articulated by it’s more informed readers in the past and it would be repetitive to mention them again. Sufficient to ask why are most western maritime nations buying LHDs, F-35s and advaced UAVs and not new F-18s Super Hornets other than Growlers?

    Perhaps with our recent enthusiasm at having some input with the new Japanese sub programme we could also consider ( if invited) joining the Japanese Stealth Fighter Programme. if these ‘buy cheap air superiority F-18s’ people want to shoot down Migs & Sukhois then an F-22 style air superiority aircraft of the future appears logical when our Super Hornets die in 20 or so years. I should also mention the Japanese are also buying F-35s in the interim.

    Cheers Gerald

  • David


    Goodbye to Australian airpower. We’d be much better off buying an aircraft that has actually been demonstrated to work.

  • Raymond


    Thread contributors, please do even a little bit of basic research first, before making uninformed and plainly bogan-ish comments. Sorry to inform you, but your lack of understanding is aptly displayed, and frankly, just looks ridiculous. If you think you know more than those in the know, e.g. the decision-makers of the RAAF, then I have news for you.

  • Raymond


    Aero guy, evidenced by your first paragraph, it appears that you haven’t even bothered to read this article properly. If you had, you would know that this was a ROLLOUT ceremony and ‘Australia’s first two F-35s… are due to be formally handed over to the RAAF in coming months’.

  • John


    To all those knockers – just wait and see. I remember when the F-111 was going through development and had so many problems it was regularly threatened with cancellation. The Australian Government, supposed to take delivery in 1968, deferred delivery while the problems were, hopefully sorted out and we did not take delivery until 1973.. History reveals that the F-111 went on to become one of the greatest strike aircraft ever. As I said,lets wait and see.

  • Fifty


    As a Canberra based bureaucrat [with some degree of knowledge on the subject matter] I am astounded at the ill- informed and un-intelligent babble some readers of this fine aviation magazine are prepared to serve up in a public forum behind a shroud of anonymity. A piece of advice – suggest you might please restrict comments on matters of national security – to matters of fact which we could all benefit from. To do otherwise simply devalues the nature of this public forum. The rationale for purchase of the F-35; its developmental phase; cost and introduction to service are well documented in the public media including feature articles published in this very magazine over many years. Use it to inform your veiws in the first instance.

  • Completeaerogeek


    Seriously people, unless any of you critics are working in the program office, you are talking out of your …opinions.

    John is quite correct. The F-111 was a game changer and went through all kinds of issues before maturing into a world beater. I reality it was the first stealth strike aircraft using terrain and weather to avoid radar.

    Now unless anyone here has an ‘above Top Secret’ clearance and works on the program and knows the capabilities of the aircraft, perhaps we should wait until we have what are those things called again?

    Oh yes…Facts…

  • The Road Runner


    Fully networked with Allied Forces….. CHECK
    Dose ISR ….. CHECK
    Dose EW…… CHECK
    Carries all production and future weapons….CHECK
    Will see first and shoot first…….CHECK
    Is Low Observable …..CHECK
    Will communicate with other ADF assets ….CHECK
    Will act as a node and feed info to other assets… CHECK

    Will keep on getting bashed in the public and media even if it shoots you down in a 4th gen fighter…..CHECK

  • Darren


    Why do the Advocates for this aircraft only ever talk about the information in the glossy brochure? Why do the Detractors mention only the known performance shortfalls? This aircraft has huge potential in many areas that is still in development. When or if it matches the glossy brochure there will still be some latent issues that will not be overcome. That much has already been acknowledged by the US DOD and LM. So while the for and against argument rages only when it is has finished development and testing will anyone really know if the promise has been realised.

  • Michael Guerin


    Hey The Road Runner
    I’m not sure what “dose” means, but apart from being able to carry ( but not fire) all current and FUTURE weapons (you must have a crystal ball), you can uncheck all of those items: it has yet to demonstrate any of these capabilities after more a decade of development and many billions of dollars. As for those who say it’s top secret, so we really don’t know what it can do, I have 1 word. BULLSHIT. If it could do all the things they say it can do, then we would have seen at least some of it by now, if not just to keep members of Congress happy and to try and silence some of the US critics. The program only survives because of the money that’s already been spend and by the fact that it has subcontractors and suppliers in at least 45 states, so LM has effectively bought off most of Congress. The whole program has been flawed from the start. There should have been a multi-role Mach 2 stealth fighter for the USAF, a deep strike stealth bomber for the USN and a non-stealth (you don’t need stealth for cas-it’s daylight, close to the ground and they can see you) STOVL fighter for the USMC, all for less than the F35. I think you should follow the debate in the US more closely rather than rely on the handful of media outlets and commentators in Australia.

  • Geoff de Looze


    This aircraft was supposed to be “affordable”, with performance traded off as necessary to keep costs in line – it was only meant to be the second-tier attack machine under the F22 after all. It is now the most expensive fighter on earth! – currently costed at between $148 – 355M depending on the version. It was meant to have a flight cost per hour less than an F-16. It now is looking like a multiple of this. It is something like 8 years late – but there is no guarantee that the systems “as advertised” will ever work – it is all on promise. The machines being rolled out now are non-operational and will need structural refitting as the test data keeps coming in. The performance specification bar gets lowered when the design cannot meet its targets e.g. range and acceleration. It has a short range, and small weapons carriage. The conventional-runway variant is compromised because of the VSTOL design features wanted by the US Marines. The design has next to no weight margin for growth. Australia will get a lower-spec “export” version – and we will not even have access to the software code that the thing depends on to operate. The stealth is heavily frontal-aspect biased – and the opposition has been give a decades of notice to develop improved L-Band radars that can detect stealth designs with improved accuracy. The under-side stealth has been compromised by the need to “bulge” the weapons bays. The design features a large unshielded exhaust nozzle and this engine runs hot. So rear aspect infra-red stealth is certainly a no-show when you are trying to run away at a slow Mach 1.6… Do I need to go on? And to those who say this is all too negative: read the US Government issued documentation on this subject (there is plenty), look at the actual achievements of the F-35 program, and pay less attention to L-M press releases and the opinions of captive government and defence officials who appear to operate on a “trust me” basis.

  • MeMyself&I


    In 2010, Northrop Grumman carried out tests of their ‘Gamma Firestrike’ concept slab laser, a digital, solid state, weapon which gets it’s energy from passing electricity through rare earth doped glass blocks. These tests of the SSL resulted in peak loads of 108KW and sustained of 101.

    The threshold for weaponization has been passed.

    What does this mean?

    In the early 00’s, the MTHEL/Nautilus was tested and shown capable of destroying rocket and artillery shell targets up to 7km away using an early, chemical fluorine laser of 150KW, including those tracked fleetingly, through clouds.

    Boeing is now doing relay ‘mirror’ (actually more of a prism, suspended beneath an aerostat) tests which, if successful hold the promise of sending lasers up through the short leg of the triangle to the clear air at altitude and then bending it sideways to go downrange rather than forcing it to propagate through the pollutant and water vapor laden hypotenuse of direct line of sight.

    At the point the Gamma Firestrike trials were accomplished, the brassboard device was roughly 500lbs and the size of an industrial microwave similar to that in your typical McDonalds.

    Five years ago.

    Slab technology can be stacked to provide incremental increases in power.

    The Germans have already tested a two-head (30+20) KW system which has shown the ability to destroy drone targets at 2km and to cut 15mm thick steel bars at 1km. It can intercept mortar shell representative diameter ball bearings at 500m.

    The U.S. military has used similar systems to field test a CRAM fiber laser in Iraq.

    Indeed, SSL slab technology, while unique in it’s approach to doping and heat dissipation has, at it’s base, the same fiber optics telecoms baselines as you would find anywhere in the world where there are high speed phone and data networks.

    Point Being: Laser technology cannot be prevented from proliferating. And it is scaleable to the 1MW range which offers the potential for 20km direct shot and 60km (or more) in relay. By 2030, when the F-35 is fully serviced with it’s 1.3 trillion dollar spares pipe stocked and the entire world defense aerospace economy committed to serving it’s needs rather than our protection, it is very likely that 1MW class lasers will be available if not co-fielded.

    And U.S. airpower will face a KT boundary moment in which the dinosaurs of conventional airpower will simply lose out.

    The F-35 is far from being an ideal ASA interceptor to meet Australia’s internal security needs. It will likely be unable to function adequately as a penetrating interdiction aircraft. Why Australia feels the need to project airpower in this way when it is safe behind an enormous water barrier, 800nm from Jakarta, is a good question.

    An MQ-1 Predator has 1,000nm combat radius and up to 32 hours on-station time. An MQ-9 Reaper has a 1,500nm combat radius and up to 20hrs on station time. They use 1,000lbs and 3,000lbs of fuel (rotary vs. turboprop) respectively. They cost 3 million and 9 million dollars, respectively. I don’t have operational costs for the Reaper but during the height of activities in support of U.S. forces in Iraq and AfG, when we were supporting upwards of 60 CAPs per day, the Predator cost 1,000 dollars per flight hour to maintain.

    The F-35A will cost 31,000 dollars per flight hour, has a combat radius of around 584nm and can only remain on-station for -minutes- at a time, at this radius. So has to have all of it’s targeting handed to it, from other platforms.

    If the Australian people want safety from human smuggling, fisheries exploitation and for their North Shelf petrogas resources, I can see an inexpensive UAV like the MQ-9 Guardian/Mariner being vastly more useful to them than the JSF, for offshore work.

    Not least because ‘one is none’ when it comes to single engine fail operative recovery in blue water ops.

    Australians need to sit down and _really think_ about whether they want to be Mini Me clones of the Americans with their obsession over World Cop status. And I say this, as an American who resents our own overweening pretense of ‘invading to invite’ the world.

    Such an aggressive militancy is destroying our culture and replacing it with something not in any way sustainable as a followon.

    When General Abramson explained the need for the F-16 (see Youtube) it was as a lightweight, inexpensive, fill fighter to aid the F-15 and take over from the F-4 in the air to air and air to ground ‘swing’ mission while facing off with the massive force numbers the Soviets could bring to the table in Europe.

    His numbers, at that time (1975), when the F-16A.10 was an AIM-9 only airframe, were for 1,300 for America and a further 348 for NATO plus an unspecified number as export jets.

    With the 1980s being 30 years in the past and the Soviets and Chinese together serving no functional threat to Europe or America, one has to wonder why we need 1,763 F-35As, 480 F-35Bs and 250 F-35Cs.

    Reduce those numbers and watch the Lightning II become ‘unaffordable’ even by standards which would have bought 2.5 F-15Cs during the Cold War.

    People, it has to stop.

  • The Road Runner


    Well Michael “DOSE” is a brain explosion on my behalf ,guilty as charged!I need a good “dose” after reading half these reply’s on JSF

    Now back to JSF,Can you show me an aircraft that can do both LO or large external carry of weapons with SA and C4ISREW?
    We are talking up to 6 GBU’s ,4 air to air missiles a gun and the full range of targeting capability.(F-35A)Not to many Tac fighters can manage that.Everyone who advocates buying a 4th gen such as F-18,SU-27/30/33/35,F-16,F-15 and flying this aircraft for the next 30 year in the hope that it will be a match for and Fifth gen fighter is dreaming.

    Now Michael JSF has fired a number of AMRAAM and dropped GBU’s.Dont know where your getting your info from ?


    So no crystal ball gazing from me as JSF will carry AGM-158,AGM-154,GBU-12/31/32/38,brimstone,stormshadow,JSM,Aim-120/132/9X with a number of other weapons in development by partner nations.

    Geoff your figures are just plain wrong.The more orders that come in the cheaper JSF will be. F-35A’s are already cheaper that Typhoon and Rafael.The F-35 A LRIP(24 Units) are coming in at 98 million excluding engine’s! You can read about the cost of all JSF below. Prices are coming down as more aircraft are being ordered!.


    Sure JSF is having problems ,but it s cutting edge. All planes have issues ,but they usually get resolved.
    F-35 is the right plane for Australia and a number of other 1st world nations.


  • MHalblaub


    The F-35 JSF is not a fighter aircraft nor a 5th generation fighter. Nations like the UK or Turkey add their F-35 to their fleets but not as an air superiority fighter. RAF will rely on Eurofighter Typhoon and Turkey will use F-16 for air superiority. The F-35 is the successor of the F-117.

    Super cruise is essential for a modern fighter jet. A platform speed of Mach 1+ gives a missile a range advantage against the same missile fired from below the speed of sound. Current MBDA Meteor doesn’t fit inside a F-35. A somehow smaller version may fit inside.

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