The Defence Strategic Update 2020 requires a technologically advanced strike and air combat capability for Australia.
The Defence Strategic Update 2020 requires a technologically advanced strike and air combat capability for Australia. To accomplish this, the Australian Government has approved AIR6000 Phase 2A/B to acquire 72 Lightning II aircraft along with associated weapons, spares, support equipment, and infrastructure. Australia operates the F-35A Conventional Take-off and Landing (CTOL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter.
Australia’s F-35A fleet will fulfill the functions of air dominance and strike capability currently provided by F/A-18A/B Hornets. The F-35A Lightning II, in concert with F/A-18F Super Hornet and E/A-18G Growler, is a potent air combat capability mix which will provide the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) with critical air combat power to meet Australia’s needs beyond 2030.
The project is scheduled to deliver an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in December 2020 and a Final Operating Capability (FOC) in December 2023.
Australia is acquiring the F-35A as part of an international co-operative program led by the United States and along with other international partners contributes to management and development of the F-35 air system. Under the co-operative agreement, partners bid for and win work on the global program on a best-value basis. To date, Australian industry has won over AUD$2.7 billion of work with more than 50 companies involved.
To exploit the full potential of the fifth-generation F-35A, Australia will invest in an electronic warfare reprogramming capability, information management systems, a comprehensive training capability, weapons and maintenance capabilities. The aircraft will be supported in Australia by a system designed to meet our sovereign needs but integrated with the F-35 Global Support System. Within this system Australia will provide a regional support capability initially comprising airframe and engine maintenance and warehousing. In time, this will expand to include maintenance and repair for a range of system components in support of the global fleet.
Australia has operated the F-35A since 2014 when our first two aircraft commenced training operations at Luke Air Force Base in the USA. Training at Luke Air Force Base grew to encompass up to 10 Australian aircraft and continued until October 2020. Two Australian F-35A aircraft landed at RAAF Base Williamtown in December 2018 commencing the transition to an Australian-based operation.
All maintenance training is now being conducted at Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) following the opening of the Integrated Training Centre at Williamtown in 2018. The first RAAF F-35 Pilot Transition Course conducted by 2OCU was completed in September 2020.
Content is current as at December 2020.