The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) first F-35A Lightning II joints strike fighter aircraft has landed at Luke Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona, US.
Australia has now become the first international partner to arrive at the base for a training programme, which also includes the US, Turkey, Italy, Norway, and the Netherlands, in addition to the foreign military sales countries, such as Japan, Korea and Israel.
Royal Australian Air Force air attaché air commodore Gary Martin said: "This is an important milestone for Australia and we are looking forward to the commencement of our fifth-generation pilot training here at Luke in 2015."
As a central training hub for international F-35A training, Luke AFB will train international and US pilots on how to effectively employ the fifth-generation strike fighter in the near future.
56th Fighter Wing commander brigadier general Scott Pleus said: "The collaborative training we’ll be doing here on aircraft designed with stealth, manoeuvrability and integrated avionics will better prepare our combined forces to assume multi-role missions for the future of strike aviation.
"From the bed-down of the F-35 and its infrastructure to the execution of training, our partner-nations have been an important piece of Luke’s F-35 team.
"The relationships we’re building now will be invaluable when we deploy together around the world protecting our respective countries."
The RAAF’s training is scheduled to be conducted in collaboration with the 61st Fighter Squadron.
Expected to stand-up in June 2015, the 62nd Fighter Squadron will be joined by partner nations Italy and Norway. It is scheduled to start flight operations in September of that year.
Australia has committed to acquire 72 F-35A conventional take-off and landing aircraft at a cost of more than $12bn to replace RAAF’s aging F/A-18A/B Hornet fleet.
Image: The first Royal Australian air force F-35A Lightning II aircraft at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, US. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force / Staff Sgt Staci Miller.