BAE Systems has been awarded an $80 million contract to provide maintenance and supply chain support to Australia’s F-35s.
It comes alongside news the Commonwealth government will separately invest an additional $60 million in a support program to help Australian companies compete for sustainment contracts on the next-generation fighter.
BAE Systems’ five-year Air Vehicle Support Services (AVSS) contract aims to bolster homegrown maintenance support for the F-35A fleet at RAAF Bases Williamtown in the Hunter region of NSW and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.
It’s also tipped to support the employment of approximately 46 BAE Systems Australia staff, tasked with providing direct, on-the-ground support to RAAF personnel sustaining the F-35.
In collaboration with Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems delivers up to 15 per cent of each F-35 aircraft globally, including the provision of advanced manufacture of the aft fuselage, empennage and crucial components from its facilities in the UK and Australia.
Some components used for the aircraft’s vertical tail, corrosion prognostics and avionics are also manufactured by BAE Systems in South Australia.
Andrew Gresham, BAE Systems Australia’s managing director of defence delivery, said, “We will be leveraging our years of experience in fast jet sustainment working side by side with the RAAF to deliver aircraft availability and capability requirements.”
Meanwhile, the additional $60 million invested by the Commonwealth government in the F-35A Industry Support Program is expected to bolster work opportunities for local SMEs.
“The $60 million increase in funding for the Joint Strike Fighter Industry Support Program will allow Australian companies to develop new and improved capabilities to strengthen their chances of securing contracts in the global F-35 Program,” Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said.
Local firms contributing the global F-35 program are estimated to have shared in over $3 billion in support contracts.
Minister Price has encouraged Australian businesses to review the Joint Strike Fighter Industry Support Program Guidelines to consider opportunities to participate in the program.
The RAAF recently received three new F-35 jets, taking the total size of the existing fleet to 44.
The new aircraft touched down in RAAF Base Williamtown, where these were accepted by No. 77 Squadron.
The Commonwealth government has ordered 72 F-35A aircraft under the Joint Strike Fighter program.
All 72 jets are expected to be fully operational by 2023, with an option to expand the fleet to a maximum of 100 aircraft.