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87 Squadron honours Corporal who made F-35s world-leading

written by Adam Thorn | October 10, 2022

Corporal Kristopher Henderson, left, is presented with the Max Cowin Award by Commanding Officer No. 87 Squadron Wing Commander Jarrod Foster (Defence)

No. 87 Squadron has given one of its most prestigious awards to Corporal Kristopher Henderson for his work supporting the RAAF’s F-35s.

The Squadron’s Wing Commander, Jarrod Foster, said his work as an air intelligence analyst helped make its program world-leading compared to other nations.

The Max Cowin Award recognises the person who most significantly contributes to the reputation, value and capability of No. 87 Squadron.

“During the 2021-2022 year Corporal Henderson displayed exemplary performance in the execution of his duties as an air intelligence analyst with No. 81 Tactical Intelligence Flight,” said Defence.

“His dedication to providing high-quality mission intelligence support to Air Combat Group directly contributed to advancing the development of the F-35A Lightning II post-mission analysis process and has enhanced the integration of No. 81 Wing assets within the broader Joint Strike Fighter enterprise.”


Wing Commander Foster said, “Corporal Henderson’s technical knowledge is of the highest order.

“He has applied his mission intelligence skills to enhancing intelligence reporting processes and has laid a strong foundation for the future workforce by developing training packages for the mission intelligence fighter intelligence qualification course.

“His efforts have not only represented the intelligence community with distinction but also thrust Australia’s F-35A program to prominence amongst our partner nations.”

Initially working with Mosquito and Wirraways, No 87 Squadron was formed from elements of No 1 Photographic Unit in September 1944.

In 2005, it was reformed to provide Intelligence Branch support to RAAF operations and now encompasses intelligence, photography, signals operator and geospatial analyst musterings.

The F-35 is the country’s newest fighter, purchased to replace the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that were in service since 1985 and retired in late 2021.

Over the coming years, Australia will buy 72 as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program, with all expected to be fully operational by 2023.

Thus far, the fighters have clocked in excess of 15,000 flight hours and have already achieved initial operational capability, making it combat-ready.

The aircraft comes in three variants: the F-35A — purchased by Australia — is a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) version; the F-35B is a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the final F-35C is the carrier type (CV).

The RAAF took delivery of four more in September, taking its current fleet to 54.

Corporal Henderson said he was grateful to be recognised for the results that both he and his team have achieved.

“It has been humbling to be acknowledged for my team’s contribution to F-35A mission support,” Corporal Henderson said.

“It has been extremely rewarding work to be involved from the beginning with conceptualised workflows, developing training and then implementing on exercise.”

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