Air Force has welcomed the collaboration between Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) and Defence industry to help save Australian aviation jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BAE Systems Australia recently employed a team of 25 former Jetstar aviation workers to be part of the maintenance workforce sustaining Air Force’s growing fleet of F-35A Lightning II and Hawk Lead-In Fighter (LIF) aircraft.

Once trained, 21 aviation technicians will support No. 81 Wing maintain the F-35A fleet at RAAF Base Williamtown and four personnel will work on the Hawk LIF at the BAE facility from January 2021.

Commanding Officer Air Combat Systems Program Office (ACSPO) Wing Commander David Jorgensen said the spirit of collaboration was thriving at Williamtown.

 “The speed in which these technicians have been brought into the system is a credit to the teamwork of individuals in ACSPO, Air Combat Group (ACG), Joint Strike Fighter Branch and BAE Systems Australia,” Wing Commander Jorgensen said.

“The first cadre of technicians started their training at the No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) Integrated Training Centre on November 16, and all members are expected to be ready to start work at 81 Wing in January next year.” 

Over the next five years we expect to grow our Williamtown workforce significantly to support Australia’s growing F-35 fleet.

Wing Commander Jorgensen said the opportunity was first identified when ACG and ACSPO became aware of the displaced Jetstar workforce through the Hunter Defence Aviation Workforce Forum - a local initiative to drive collaboration between Defence and Australian industry in the Hunter region. 

He said this was timely as it corresponded to an 81 Wing workforce demand for the stand-up of F-35A workshops.

According to Officer Commanding ACSPO Group Captain Allan Wherrett, the successful transition has broader outcomes for Australia.

“Through retaining highly skilled aviation technicians in the Hunter area, we have improved the self-reliance of our sovereign Australian capability to effectively and efficiently maintain the fleet of F-35A aircraft and assured the overall capability transition,” Group Captain Wherrett said.

“81 Wing will continue to transition F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet squadrons to the F-35A over the next two years, and over that time, they will rely on Australian industry support as they build Air Force experience on the new platform and its supporting systems.”

He said BAE Systems Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia were key partners in the future success of the Australian F-35A capability.

BAE Systems Australia Chief Executive Gabby Costigan said the company was delighted to provide highly skilled jobs at a time when so many industries were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The addition of 25 specialists to our workforce will ensure that we can continue to develop, grow and retain critical aerospace capabilities that will benefit both the Hunter region and the nation,” Ms Costigan said.

“Over the next five years we expect to grow our Williamtown workforce significantly to support Australia’s growing F-35 fleet.”