Lockheed Martin has rolled out the third F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), in Texas, US.

Australia plans to acquire 72 F-35A conventional take-off and landing aircraft to replace the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Hornet fleet.

Lockheed has applied No 3 Squadron markings to the aircraft earlier this month, marking the stage of the production process.

The JSF will undergo ground and flight testing at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, over the next several weeks.

Australia Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said: “The completion of our third Joint Strike Fighter is a significant achievement for Australia’s F-35A Project.

“The completion of our third Joint Strike Fighter is a significant achievement for Australia’s F-35A Project.”

“It is particularly exciting that a key component – the tailpiece – was manufactured in Australia, by Australian company, Marand Engineering.”

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“As the programme matures, more and more parts on Joint Strike Fighters going to countries around the world will come from Australia.

“More than 50 Australian companies have directly shared in more than A$800m ($609.1m) in production contracts thus far, while hundreds more are indirectly benefiting through supply chains.”

The first two F-35s, designated AU-1 and AU-2 for the RAAF, were rolled out in July 2014.

Australian companies are expected to be provided with further opportunities to participate in the F-35 programme through regional assignments for the repair of the second tranche of aircraft components next year.