The Australian Government has signed a $63.12m (A$100m) facility service deed with BAE Systems Australia to support the country’s existing fleet of F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

Under this deal, the company will boost the depot maintenance capability of the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) jets at its South Hangar facility, Newcastle Airport, New South Wales (NSW).

The deed will be executed by expanding the number of maintenance bays from two to six.

The expansion will allow BAE Systems to fulfil the F-35A Lightning II fleet’s emerging requirements, in terms of maintenance and service support.

The government said that this capability enhancement effort will further increase the number of personnel in the existing workforce for the F-35 aircraft.

In 2021, the RAAF’s first F-35A fighter jet was inducted at BAE Systems’ NSW-based facility, near RAAF Base Williamtown. The company was selected as a key partner to support the aircraft’s sustainment programme.

The associated work is expected to support nearly 750 direct/indirect local employment opportunities by 2025.

Australian Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said: “The construction at BAE Systems Australia’s existing South Hangar facility will provide opportunities for local jobs, to local suppliers and subcontractors.

“All 72 F-35As will be sustained and upgraded at the facility in Newcastle over the next three decades, bringing opportunities and jobs to the region for years to come.

“To date, more than 70 Australian companies have won more than $1.89bn (A$3bn) in production and sustainment contracts as part of the global F-35 Programme.”

The government is further planning to increase maintenance bays at the facility beyond six from 2026.

So far, the RAAF has received 57 F-35 jets, with the delivery of all 72 aircraft expected by end of next year.