Hot on the heels of Australia’s F-35A Lightning II fleet achieving initial operational capability, another important sustainment milestone has been met.

The first F-35A aircraft has been inducted into BAE Systems Australia’s maintenance depot as part of the next major milestone in the Joint Strike Fighter Program.

Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group’s Officer Commanding Air Combat Systems Program Office Group Captain Allan Wherrett said key to retaining the F-35A as a deployable and viable air combat capability was having an ongoing, Australian-based aircraft maintenance and upgrade capability. 

“You can’t continue to have a world-class fighter jet in the F-35A without the necessary maintenance and modification support to keep them effective in the skies,” Group Captain Wherrett said.

“With the first RAAF F-35A aircraft being inducted into BAE Systems Australia’s air vehicle maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade facility at Williamtown, Australia is now well-positioned to keep our F-35A fleet at peak capability.”

The facility will not only maintain and modify Australia’s F-35A aircraft, but could also do the same for other F-35 operating nations.

Group Captain Wherrett said this followed the selection of Australia as the South-East Asia regional hub for the maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade of F-35 aircraft. 

“This is not only a significant achievement for Australia and Australian Defence industry, but for our allies and friends in the region who are or may become part of the global Joint Strike Fighter program,” he said.  

“The collaboration between Defence and Australian industry to get us to this point has been truly inspiring in achieving a sovereign capability. 

“We expect four Australian F-35A aircraft to be inducted this year, with these first aircraft to undergo modifications that improve their structural strength and durability, to align it with that of our newer aircraft.”

The F-35 is the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world today and the Williamtown maintenance facility will initially see 16 BAE Systems Australia personnel work on the aircraft.

To date Australian industry has shared in $2.7 billion worth of contracts as part of the F-35 program demonstrating the high calibre of our local defence industry, while providing a significant boost to the Australian economy.

Speaking at the induction on February 8, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the induction demonstrated the world-leading capability of our local defence industry in Australia.

"This is about protecting and securing Australia's interests but it's also creating jobs and driving investment right here in the Hunter and across the country too," the Prime Minister said.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the Joint Strike Fighter was a step up from previous fighter jets.

"It is a significant step-change from its predecessors with its stealth technology and advanced sensors and also with its ability to operate as part of the network system."