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Joint Strike Fighters

AIR 6000 or the New Air Combat Capability (NACC) Project aims to introduce a new air combat capability that will meet Australia’s air combat needs out to 2030 and beyond. In the 2009 Defence White Paper, the Government confirmed that it plans to equip the Air Force with around 100 F-35 aircraft.

The F-35 is a fifth-generation, stealthy, multi-role fighter being developed for the US and eight international partner nations, including Australia. Of the three variants being produced, Australia is acquiring the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) F-35A variant. When integrated into a networked Australian Defence Force, Australia’s F-35A will fulfil the functions of air dominance and strike capability currently provided by F/A-18A/B Hornets and F/A-18F Super Hornets.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Project:

  • Phase 2A/2B – New Air Combat Capability – 3 Squadrons

  • Phase 2C – New Air Combat Capability – 4th Squadron

  • Phase 3 – Weapons for New Air Combat Capability

  • Phase 5 – Future Air-to-Air Weapons for New Air Combat Capability and Super Hornet

AIR 6000 Phase 1B has focused on the analysis and risk mitigation activities necessary to support Government’s procurement decision on the F-35 and to support Australian defence industry participation in the F-35 Program. The primary financial activity was provision of Australia's shared cost contribution to the US F-35 Program in accordance with our obligations as a Program partner. Apart from ongoing funding to support some outstanding contracts, Phase 1B is complete and the NACC Project is now in the acquisition phase.

On current plans, AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B, the first phase of the acquisition, will consider acquiring up to 72 CTOL F-35A aircraft to establish three operational squadrons, a training squadron and necessary supporting/enabling elements to replace the current F/A-18 A/B Hornet capability.

In November 2009, the Government approved funding for Phase 2A/B (Stage 1) to acquire 14 CTOL F-35A aircraft, support and enabling elements required to establish the initial pilot and maintainer training capability in the US and to allow conduct of operational test in the US and Australia. The first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will be delivered in the US in 2014. The delivery of the next 12 aircraft, originally scheduled for delivery in the 2015-2017 timeframe, will now be delayed by two years.

Phase 2A/B (Stage 2) will consider approving funding for the next tranche of (up to) 58 CTOL F-35A aircraft and support and enabling elements to form the first three operational squadrons and a training unit. A Government risk assessment of overall F-35 progress, and any recommendations, to be presented to Government in late 2012, will inform a decision on the way ahead for Stage 2.

A subsequent AIR 6000 Phase 2C is planned to acquire the fourth operational squadron to bring the total number of aircraft to around 100. A decision on Phase 2C – not expected before 2015 – will depend on the decision on the timing of the withdrawal of the F/A-18F Super Hornets.

The NACC project office continues to work closely with Australian industry, Lockheed Martin and its F-35 industry partners and their suppliers, to improve the business case for Australian industry participation on the F-35 Program.

The F-35 is a large and complex program and many challenges remain. Outcomes and information from US reviews of the JSF Program continue to be factored into Defence’s planning to ensure we can deal with risks.

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The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

The F-35 (commonly known as the Joint Strike Fighter) is the most suitable aircraft for Australia’s future air combat and strike needs.

The F-35’s combination of stealth, advanced sensors, networking and data fusion capabilities, when integrated with other defence systems, will enable the RAAF to maintain an air combat edge.

The F-35 matches or exceeds F-16 performance levels and goes several steps beyond with stealth, increased range on internal fuel, and advanced avionics. Like the F-16, the F-35A has an internal gun and a refuelling receptacle on top of the fuselage behind the canopy. Unlike the F-16, the aircraft is stealthy, enabling first-look, first-shot capability. It also has an internal laser designator and infrared sensors. Manoeuvrability characteristics are similar to those of the F-16. The F-35's range and weapons capability are greatly improved.

Defence is currently undertaking an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the flying operations of the F-35. A website has been created where you can learn more about the EIS process, subscribe to receive updates, and provide feedback.

New Air Combat Capability Supplementary Report

All public submissions in response to Defence’s draft Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Public Environment Report (PER) are addressed in the Supplementary Report.

This Supplementary Report consolidates the public feedback on the draft PER, corrects some minor errors in the draft PER, clarifies sections of the draft PER which the public found confusing, and provides Defence’s initial response to the issues raised.

The Supplementary Report also describes the noise modelling undertaken by Defence since the endorsement of the 2025 Australian Noise Exposure Forecast (ANEF) for Williamtown and Salt Ash Air Weapons Range, and contains the noise concept maps released by Defence during 2010.

Based on the findings of its voluntary PER process, Defence has now formally referred JSF's introduction to the Environment Minister for assessment under the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The EPBC Act referral number is 2010/5747. Progress on the assessment of JSF under the EPBC Act can be tracked via the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities' website.

Additional Public Environment Reports are available as follows:

Williamtown (Zipped - 8MB)

Townsville (Zipped - 9MB)

Read more about the F-35  

The New Air Combat Capability (NACC) Project aims to introduce a new air combat capability that will meet Australia’s air combat needs out to 2030 and beyond. In the 2009 Defence White Paper, the Government confirmed that it plans to equip the Air Force with around 100 F-35 aircraft.

Read more

F-35 Overview

Related links:

Submission to the Defence Sub-Committee Review of the 2010-2011 Defence Annual Report - Issues Raised by Air Power Australia Regarding JSF

Industry Support:

The New Air Combat Capability – Industry Support Program, providing $ 8.2 million to support Australian industry and research organisations involved in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program out to 2014. Read more

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