The Royal Australian Air Force’s fifth-generation capabilities need a fifth-generation workforce.

As Air Force’s fleet of the F-35A Lightning II aircraft continues to grow, the quality and delivery of highly trained Air Force maintainers is exceeding expectations.

The Air Combat Transition Office Workforce Planning Manager, Wing Commander September Clare, said the current ‘data snapshot’ of the workforce was promising.

“As of mid-October 2019, the RAAF has 103 Australian-based trained maintainers working on our current six F-35s and stand ready to support the additional seven jets due to be delivered at the end of the year,” Wing Commander Clare said.  

She said training a specialist workforce of maintainers required deep-dive analysis and significant planning by a dedicated team.

“I’m continually impressed by the innovative approaches the training staff at the integrated training centre have to training development, which has resulted in the accelerated delivery of maintenance training to support the F-35 capability,” she said.

Recent data also confirmed the continued trend of high training output. Another 32 F-35A maintainers will be on course in October 2019 and, in comparison to the performance of the same period last year, maintenance training numbers throughout have quadrupled.

Air Force members Corporal Cory Cochrane, Sergeant Paul Davies and Leading Aircraftwoman Megan Bridger with an Australian F-35A Lightning II on the flightline of Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, US. Photo: Corporal Dan Pinhorn

The Director Air Combat Transition Office, Group Captain John Haly, said an important training standard had been set.

“The skill of our people, and the in-depth planning for our technical workforce, have positioned us well to accept our new F-35A Lightning II aircraft from the production line,” Group Captain Haly said.

“Fundamentally, the training data reflects our ability to be self-sufficient in Australia and demonstrates Air Force capacity to deliver effective specialist training on this exciting new capability.

“This is a significant achievement for the Australian F-35A Lightning II community.”   

Successful management and the timely delivery of a trained workforce extends to aircrew, which is also running ahead of schedule.

Twenty-five pilots have been converted to the F-35A (14 of them still embedded in a United States Air Force squadron as instructors), an additional three are being trained in the US and two more in Australia.