With just over a year until the first two F-35A aircraft arrive in Australia, RAAF Base Williamtown personnel have joined other subject matter experts to assess the base’s readiness to support critical F-35A air operations.
The fourth and final annual Site Activation Task Force (SATAF) activity in September involved personnel from Defence, Australian industry, the US F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), and Prime Contractors Lockheed Martin Aero and Pratt & Whitney working together to clarify issues and identify areas where more work is required.
Monthly reviews have now commenced in the lead-up to the F-35A First Aircraft Arrival in December 2018.
Acting Project Director In-Service Support Wing Commander (WGCDR) Vince Palmeri, of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Division, said SATAF provided an opportunity to check everything from aircrew and maintenance training, information systems, airworthiness, engineering, logistics, on-base services and security, in order to commence and sustain future F-35A air operations.
“The fourth SATAF was a success due to the people who went to a lot of effort to organise and run the activity, but equally to those who attended and participated in discussions to clarify and confirm the base’s status with regard to being ready for F-35A air operations,” WGCDR Palmeri said.
“It was also encouraging to see base representatives take on action items to ensure their respective areas will be transformed, as required, to accommodate the new capability, with a focus on the entire F-35A air system.”
During the activity, participants worked through a realistic training exercise that demonstrated the collective strength of the diverse team at Williamtown.
“The scenario involved an F-35A, with weapons, hitting a flock of pelicans and a pilot suffering concussion, yet able to safely land the aircraft,” WGCDR Palmeri said.
“Personnel fulfilling various emergency response, engineering, maintenance, logistics and sustainment functions then worked through the response to the incident. This included immediate response and aeromedical teams removing the aircraft from the runway and testing the effectiveness of the maintenance, engineering and supply chain given the extent of damage to the aircraft.
“Everyone had a role to play — the combined experience of the Williamtown team was impressive.”
WGCDR Palmeri said this level of planning would help ensure Australia was ready to support the new fifth-generation capability, but added it was important not to get complacent.
“Now we will roll straight into the Sustainment Readiness Review battle rhythm and continue to engage with base representatives to be certain that Williamtown will be ready when the F-35A aircraft touch down next year,” he said.
Director-General JSF Acquisition and Sustainment Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Terry Saunder said the impending arrival of the first two F-35A aircraft was an exciting time for Air Force.
“We will rely on coordination across Defence and with our industry partners to operate and optimise the F-35A capability,” AIRCDRE Saunder said.
“A ‘One Defence’ approach will be critical to success in our transition to this fifth-generation capability.
“SATAF is one part of a coordinated approach and careful planning to ensure the successful start to F-35A air operations in Australia from late 2018.”