RAAF takes delivery of ninth F-35A

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 17, 2018
F-35A A35-009 taking off from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. (USAF via Defence)

The RAAF has taken delivery of its ninth F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the first to be taken on strength by its first operational flying unit to fly the jet, No 3 Squadron.

F-35A A35-009 was delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona where it was accepted by 3QSN in early September.

“It’s is an exciting time for ACG as we transition to F-35A operations over the next few years,” Commander Air Combat Group Air Commodore Mike Kitcher told Air Force News.

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“While there are challenges ahead, particularly as we prepare for the conduct of Australian-based operations next year, I am confident we are well placed to manage the transition.”

3SQN pilots and maintenance personnel are currently training on the F-35 with the US Air Force’s 56th Fighter Wing at Luke. The squadron is due to bring the first two jets to Australia in mid-December for a ‘Verification & Validation Testing’ program and to allow in-country F-35 maintenance training to begin.

F-35A A35-009 parked on the ‘Australian flight line’ at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. (Defence)

Earlier RAAF F-35As are flying with the 56th Fighter Wing as part of the International F-35A Pilot Training Center.

“We plan to conduct the transition process with a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach with an initial low rate of effort,” AIRCDRE Kitcher said.

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“Our flying program initially would involve functional check flights, ferry work-up and ferry flights, flying training activities in Australia and public relations 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.

RAAF Initial Operational Capability with the F-35A is planned for December 2020.

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