RAAF Base Tindal has accepted the first F-35s that will be operated from the base.
The first two of the fifth-generation jet arrived on 2 December with another pair landing on 8 December. In total, 16 of Australia’s final fleet of 72 will be based in the Northern Territory, with the remaining aircraft in its larger home of RAAF Base Williamtown in the Hunter region of NSW.
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said, “The Morrison government is continuing to invest in RAAF Base Tindal in order to increase the reach of our Air Force capabilities in the Indo-Pacific.
“The F-35A-equipped 75 Squadron will capitalise on frequent opportunities to bolster interoperability with US rotational aircraft deployments, and other enhanced air cooperation activities that will take place in the Top End as announced at this year’s AUSMIN.”
The F-35 has already achieved initial operational capability, making it combat-ready, and is expected to hit final operational capability in December 2023.
Australia’s new fighters were purchased as part of its $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program to replace the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985. The first was delivered in December 2018, and so far, 44 have landed on Australian soil.
The aircraft comes in three variants: the F-35A – purchased by Australia – is a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) version; the F-35B is a short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the final F-35C is the carrier type (CV).
Last week, Australian Aviation reported how BAE Systems was awarded an $80 million contract to provide maintenance and supply chain support to Australia’s fleet.
BAE Systems’ five-year Air Vehicle Support Services (AVSS) contract aims to bolster homegrown maintenance support for the F-35A fleet at both RAAF Bases Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal.
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.
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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.
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