The federal government has finalised a $210 million deal with BAE systems that will see seven more F-35 maintenance bays created at Williamtown.
The funding boost will grow overall capacity to 13 bays and mean the Hunter Valley could potentially service a global F-35 fleet that will reach more than 3,000 aircraft.
Australia’s newest fighter jet, the F-35, was bought to replace the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets which has been in service since 1985 and retired in late 2021.
The RAAF will have a final fleet of 72 as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program, with three squadrons based at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal.
Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy revealed the government recently signed stage two of a facility services deed with BAE Systems Australia worth $110 million, which is in addition to its initial first stage commitment of $100 million announced last year.
“This contract extension more than doubles our initial investment in the F-35 sustainment hub at Williamtown and underscores the Albanese government’s commitment to growing our defence industry,” said Minister Conroy.
“Crucially, this contract secures jobs for people across the Hunter and nationally for decades to come. It also ensures the Hunter Valley’s future as a hub for the sustainment of Australian aircraft, and potentially from other nations.”
It comes after Australian Aviation reported in October how local Rosebank Engineering formally opened its F-35 wheels and brakes repair depot in Melbourne.
The facility in Bayswater, 27 kilometres east of the state capital’s CBD, will support Australia’s fleet of F-35A aircraft in partnership with the F-35 Joint Program Office, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Honeywell, and the Australian Department of Defence.
Rosebank Engineering has previously provided maintenance, repair, and overhaul support to the RAAF on F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet (retired) and in-service F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft.
The Lockheed Martin program director for Australia’s F-35s, Rob Weitzman, welcomed the depot activation.
“Rosebank Engineering’s new F-35 wheels and brakes repair facility will provide critical support infrastructure to F-35 fleets operating in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Royal Australian Air Force,” said Weitzman.
“This is an example of Australia’s world-class engineering capabilities and demonstrates how the F-35 program is contributing significantly to the growth and development of Australia’s defence industry, which has been awarded over $4.13 billion in global production and sustainment contracts through the F-35 program to date.”