A Melbourne-based engineering company, Lovitt Technologies, will use a A$1.5m ($1m) Australian government grant to buy a next-generation machining centre to secure more work on the global F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Programme.

A key supplier to the aerospace and defence sector in Australia, Lovitt Technologies will also use the grant to train staff and upgrade equipment and software.

A machining centre is an advanced, fast, computer-controlled machine that can perform multiple operations like milling, boring and drilling.

The F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter is a stealthy, supersonic multi-role fighter jet developed by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and programme partners across Nato and other allies.

According to the original equipment manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, there will be more than 400 F-35 stealth fighters across Nato member bases by 2030.

Lovitt is the first recipient of the Joint Strike Fighter Industry Support Programme – Production and Modernisation Grant (JSFG), which provides local companies up to 50% of the money they need to develop new or improved capabilities to secure work from the lucrative programme.

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More than 70 Australian companies have already benefitted from over $3.7bn in global F-35 production and sustainment contracts, according to the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Head of Aerospace Systems Divisions, Air Vice-Marshal Graham Edwards, said the ADF wanted more skilled Australian workers to benefit from long-term jobs from the F-35 Programme in order to strengthen Australia’s defence industry.

“These commercial contracts and grants create great opportunities and flow on economic benefits to small and unique Australian businesses through supply chain work,” Air Vice-Marshal Edwards said. “Australian industry is poised to increase its contribution to the global F-35 Program, which has more than 930 aircraft with an expected global fleet of over 3000.”

Australia’s expanding F-35 development

Australia plans to have 72 fifth-generation, F-35A aircraft combining air-to-air, strike and ground attack capabilities, the ADF stated.

According to GlobalData intelligence, the Australian government will increase spending on F-35 development from $106m to $894m in the next year alone. Moreover, global future procurement spending on the F-35A alone will grow from $243m in 2024 to $305m in 2033. The more popular F-35B variant, which differs with its vertical take-off and landing capability, will grow from $3.2bn to $4.7bn during the next decade.

Demand for F-35 development is incremental and in a constant state of maintenance and development as the most sophisticated multi-role aircraft available of the global military fixed-wing market. The aircraft requires very complex engineering service.

We can expect Lovitt’s $1m capacity expansion to encompass a small part of this global enterprise, yet it will bring the local company reliable and recurring business.