Australia’s new fleet of F-35A Lightning II advanced fighter jets can now be deployed on operations with the RAAF after they were signed off as officially achieving Initial Operational Capability.
For the last two years, the Australian Defence Force has been testing the F-35A fleet to assess aircraft and system performance. The fleet is replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the air force since 1985.
“The [ADF] now has an F-35A squadron ready to conduct technologically advanced strike and air combat roles, and another squadron dedicated to providing world-class training here in Australia,” defence minister Linda Reynolds said yesterday (Monday).
Key to the country’s air combat capability
“I would like to thank everyone that has worked so hard to get us to this point; to have accomplished all the required testing and materiel delivery is remarkable.”
The fifth-generation F-35A, along with the F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, are key to the country’s air combat capability and critical to achieving the objectives set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update.
The F-35 is among the most advanced multi-role stealth fighters in the world and countries that operate the aircraft include the US, UK, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan.
Variant has projected life of 30 years
The F-35A – the variant chosen by the RAAF – will have with a projected life of 30 years in service.
According to the website Defence Connect, over the coming years Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17-billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program.
“While 2020 presented significant challenges to all of us, and travel restrictions made it difficult to ferry our aircraft to Australia, the huge efforts of Defence, industry and our partners in the United States made [the] achievement possible,” Reynolds stated.
Defence industry played a key role
Her counterpart in the defence industry portfolio, minister Melissa Price, said cooperation with industry had set Defence up for long-term success.
“Our defence industry has played a critical role in achieving [the] milestone, which continues the success story of Australia’s involvement in the F-35 global program,” Price said.
“Just last month we announced that more than 50 Australian companies have shared in $2.7 billion in contracts.
“Australia will continue to work with the United States F-35 Joint Program Office and our industry partners as more aircraft are delivered through to 2023 and a mature capability is achieved.”