Jetstar staff retrain to work on F-35 program

written by Adam Thorn | December 9, 2020
The RAAF's newest F-35A Lightning II aircraft A35-016 is marshalled into position at No. 3 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. (Defence)
The RAAF’s newest F-35A Lightning II aircraft A35-016 is marshalled into position at No. 3 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. (Defence)

BAE Systems Australia is retraining 25 former Jetstar technicians and logisticians to work on its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program.

Following their training, 21 of the staff will support the RAAF team at No 81 Wing at RAAF Base Williamtown, with another four working on the Hawk Lead-in Fighter at BAE’s own facility.

The moves come after Jetstar’s closure of its aircraft maintenance facility near Newcastle in NSW.

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Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said she has previously urged companies to take on as many displaced workers as possible.

“These are workers already extremely well-armed with great skills and experience and it’s fantastic that the defence industry sector has been able to recruit their expertise,” said Minister Price.

“Defence’s excellent relationship with Australia’s industry partners has enabled this solution.

“It not only offers employment stability for the affected workers, but assists Defence as it builds Australia’s F-35A maintenance capability.

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“This is another way we are working to keep the wheels of defence industry turning through these challenging times.”

COVID has been the biggest crisis Australian aviation has seen. In June, the wider Qantas Group, including Jetstar, said it would cut 6,000 jobs altogether, or nearly 20 per cent of its workforce, and later revealed a further 2,500 ground handling jobs would be lost.

The drastic cuts followed the business’ full-year financial results showing a loss before tax of $2.7 billion and an underlying profit before tax of just $124 million.

Virgin, meanwhile, went into administration before cutting 3,000 jobs and axing the Tigerair brand.

Meanwhile, Australia currently has 30 F-35A Lightning II aircraft and will in total acquire a 72-strong fleet.

The F-35A – the variant chosen by the RAAF – will have with a projected life of 30 years in service.

Ten nations are currently flying F-35s, including the US, UK, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan. The first of Australia’s F-35A aircraft are now based on home soil after a period of training and development at Luke AFB in Arizona, plus an epic Pacific Ocean crossing In December 2018.

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