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.