RAAF officially accepts 30th F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

written by Adam Thorn | September 23, 2020
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(L-R) Aaron Piccinin from CIOG works with Leading Aircraftsman Kevin McDonald, an Aircraft Structural Technician (ASTTECH) with No. 3 Squadron on the wirelessly connected Portable Maintenance Aid laptop during routine maintenance of an F-35A Lightning II at RAAF Base Williamtown (Source: Dept of Defence)

The Royal Australian Air Force has formally accepted its 30th F-35A Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin, as the nation’s fifth-generation fighter fleet and capability continues to grow, writes Stephen Kuper.

Significant work is undertaken by Lockheed Martin before Australia can formally accept each jet, with pre-acceptance testing involving multiple checks on the production line at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Texas, as well as several flight tests to ensure each F-35A is up to the tasks the RAAF requires.

F-35A Air Vehicle Lead Squadron Leader Brook Porter is about to wrap up his three-year posting to Joint Strike Fighter Branch in Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, where he has been involved in accepting 28 F-35A aircraft.

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SQNLDR Porter explained the in-depth acceptance process ensured each F-35A was ready for Australian defence registration and operational use.

“Working with local and international stakeholders, the team has also been integral to ferrying the majority of these aircraft to Australia from the US. It’s rewarding to be part of the team establishing Australia’s future air-combat capability. It’s much bigger than simply delivering an aircraft,” he said.

Director General Joint Strike Fighter Branch Air Commodore Damien Keddie said accepting and ferrying each of Australia’s jets was the epitome of international collaboration.

“I am proud of the way the team has come together, particularly during the global pandemic, to find innovative solutions to issues that may otherwise have prevented us reaching 30 aircraft in the fleet,” AIRCDRE Keddie said.

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This announcement comes days following the successful completion of Exercise Lightning Storm, which saw a spectrum of RAAF assets combined around the nation, ranging from the E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEWC), the F/A-18A Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, KC-30A Tankers and Hawk Lead-in fighters, all combine with the F-35.

Commander Air Combat Group (ACG), Air Commodore Tim Alsop, shed some light on the training program and the performance of the F-35, as the RAAF put its new wonder jet through its paces.

“To say that the F-35 performed wonderfully is an understatement, it truly is a generational and transformational capability for the Royal Australian Air Force. Throughout the exercise, JSF really came into its own,” he said.

AIRCDRE Alsop explained, “The exercise was designed from the ground up to validate the deployability and interoperability of the F-35 – this emphasised ‘deploying’ the F-35 and its support infrastructure ‘away from barracks’, which we were able to do in an ‘expeditionary’ manner despite not actually leaving the base.”

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the Royal Australian Air Force and the wider Australian Defence Force.

For the RAAF, the F-35A’s combination of full-spectrum low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force multiplying, air-combat platform.

More than 340 F-35s are operating today with partner nations, more than 700 pilots and 6,500 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 170,000 cumulative flight hours.

Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.

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6 Comments

  • Gordon

    says:

    With so many nations having access to the F-35 and some of them having joint precurement with Russian and Chinese military hardware, it is probably sooner rather than later that the Chinese and Russians will get hold of the technical specs for the F-35. Then all the supposed eggs in one basket fighter of the 21st century will be for nought.

  • Adam

    says:

    The only one that comes to mind was Turkey and they got the boot. The rest all align with the West these days.

  • Mick C

    says:

    No Gordon there are no Nations currently buying both the F35 and Russian or Chinese Military Hardware. Turkey was the only one who ordered both F35 and Russian SAM systems and have now been kicked out of the F35 program.

  • Nick

    says:

    Actually the South Koreans have some Russian SAM systems (with ongoing Russian involvement in joint development) – this has caused well publicized consternation for the Americans.

  • • The Australian Air Force received a new F-35A fighter from Lockheed Martin
    The Australian Fleet currently has 30 received F-35A fighters
    First F-35A in Australian service entered in 2018
    • The deal includes 72 fighters, and the order will be completed by 2023

  • Quin

    says:

    So the next time Chinese warships pull up in one of our harbors they don’t own yet, cuase they can, or any other power projection move to outwit,outplay and outlast – these fighters will do what exactly? Most of them, and the tankers will get destroyed in their hangers in a real attack from big red, imo.

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