Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Base Tindal in the Northern Territory (NT) has received the first four F-35A Lightning II multirole combat aircraft.

The arrival of the aircraft follows the base’s certification to conduct F-35A operations.

The F-35A joint strike fighters (JSFs) have replaced the RAAF F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet fleet, which has been in service for a period of 33 years.

The No 75 Squadron operating from Tindal was the last unit to fly the F/A-18A/B Hornets.

In addition, Lockheed Martin and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) are working in close cooperation with F135 engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney to ensure Tindal will serve as an effective base for long-term engine maintenance.

Australia Defence Minister Peter Dutton said that the Top End, from where the No. 75 Squadron would operate the fighter jets, is a strategic location for national defence and a hub for regional engagement.

Dutton stated: “The Tindal-based F-35As will assure the ADF’s ability to deter or defeat threats to Australia’s interests and strengthen our ability to project potent air power into Australia’s immediate region.

“The Morrison Government is continuing to invest in RAAF Base Tindal in order to increase the reach of our air force capabilities in the Indo-Pacific.

“The F-35A-equipped 75 Squadron will capitalise on frequent opportunities to bolster interoperability with US rotational aircraft deployments, and other enhanced air cooperation activities that will take place in the Top End as announced at this year’s AUSMIN.”

Furthermore, Dutton announced that NT companies Fuel Calibration Services, RGM Maintenance, and Territory Instruments have joined Lockheed Martin’s global supply chain.

Dutton added: “These companies will help sustain the F-35A capability for many years, creating long-term economic benefit in the Northern Territory.”

Lockheed Martin is the F-35 programme’s prime contractor and is supporting aircraft maintenance at the Tindal base.