The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) 3 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown has received two more Lockheed Martin F-35As to bring the total number of the fleet to six.
The two aircraft – A35-015 and A35-016 – were ferried from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and arrived on September 10.
The new additions will join 3 Squadron’s validation and verification (V&V) effort, an Australian-specific operational evaluation of how the F-35A integrates with the RAAF’s basing infrastructure, networks and other capabilities, and force multipliers.
A successful V&V is a key requirement in order for the RAAF to declare an initial operational capability (IOC) of the F-35A, currently scheduled for late 2020.
Four more F-35As were expected to be delivered by the end of calendar 2019.
The RAAF was expected to continue to maintain 10 F-35As embedded with the United States Air Force’s (USAF) 61st Fighter Squadron (FS) at the international training centre at Luke AFB until at least the end of 2021.
In addition to the 10 RAAF F-35As, there were also about 50 pilots and maintenance personnel embedded with the United States Air Force (USAF) led integrated training centre “schoolhouse” there.
In the meantime, No 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) is due to relinquish its F/A-18A/B “classic” Hornets later in 2019 before a number of its staff deploy to Luke AFB to join the growing RAAF cadre there to transition to the F-35A.
VIDEO: A look at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35As conducting a flypast along the New South Wales Hunter Coast in December 2018 from the RAAF YouTube channel.