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.
“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.
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