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Buzz builds around Joint Strike Fighter


Pilot Al Norman, the F-35 Chief Test Pilot, conducting the first flight of Australia’s first F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter at Fort Worth, Texas
Pilot Al Norman, the F-35 Chief Test Pilot, conducting the first flight of Australia’s first F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter at Fort Worth, Texas

The world’s most anticipated new fast jet is a significant step closer to arriving in Australia.

The United States Air Force has announced the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is ready to conduct basic close-air support, with limited suppression of enemy air defences, following its achievement of initial operational capability.

The F-35 development series, operating at 12 different locations worldwide, also passed the combined 65,000 flight-hour mark in 2016. This is an important milestone for this important capability scheduled to arrive in Australia at the end of 2018.

The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, said the Joint Strike Fighter represents the cutting edge of fifth-generation military aircraft technology.

‘The Joint Strike Fighter will be a significant increase in our combat capability. Our training is already underway and we’re building the infrastructure at Williamtown, ready for our first aircraft to arrive in late 2018’, Air Marshal Davies said.

The works at RAAF Williamtown in New South Wales will include an F-35A operational precinct, runway pavement upgrades, explosive ordnance preparation facilities and engineering infrastructure.

Joint Strike Fighter division F-35A maintenance lead, Squadron Leader Scott Schultz, said there were many aspects to consider when planning a sustainment solution for the aircraft’s capability.

‘Australia has the most rapid acquisition and stand-up program of any partner country outside the United States’, Squadron Leader Schultz said.

‘We are going to bring a lot of aircraft online in a comparatively short amount of time, which is an exciting opportunity and a big challenge.’

Australia has 32 full-time personnel supporting the F-35 program in the United States across a range of specialisations, ensuring Australia has a key role in shaping outcomes for the new capability.