The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) first F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighters have arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales (NSW).
The two F-35 fighter aircraft will be operated by RAAF Number 3 Squadron. They will be permanently based in Australia, making it the seventh nation to have the aircraft based on its home soil.
Lockheed-Martin is building the fifth-generation F-35 in three variants for the US military and ten other countries. The aircraft model is currently based within the US, the UK, Italy, Norway, Israel, and Japan.
Lockheed Martin Australia chief executive Vince Di Pietro said: “The arrival of the first F-35 aircraft to be permanently based in Australia is a historic occasion and we are proud of our role as the fifth generation design pioneer and F-35 original equipment manufacturer.
“We congratulate the RAAF, the ADF and all of our Australian industry partners who have worked to make this achievement a reality.”
More than A$17bn ($12.23bn) is being invested by the Australian Government for the procurement of at least 72 joint strike fighters.
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Of the total ten F-35s received by Australia so far, eight are currently participating in the international cooperative F-35 training operations at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
Australia will also consign an F-35 operational squadron at RAAF Base Tindal and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. All aircraft are expected to become fully operational by 2023.
Australian Defence Industry Minister Ciobo said: “Australian industry is manufacturing parts that will be fitted to every F-35 in production globally, and more than 50 Australian companies have directly shared in $1.2bn in production contracts to date.
“Up to 1,500 contractors have worked on the construction of the facilities to accommodate the F-35A at RAAF Base Williamtown, representing approximately $1bn of investment in the Hunter region alone.”
The F-35 fleet worldwide has logged in more than 170,000 cumulative flight hours and over 340 F-35s are currently operating from 16 bases worldwide.