Australia is preparing to receive its first operational Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft.
The first two aircraft (AU-1 and AU-2) are due to arrive at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Williamtown in New South Wales on 10 December, the Department of Defence (DoD) disclosed on 3 December.
Production of the first two Australian F-35As began in 2011 with those jets being delivered to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona in December 2014. The aircraft have been used for pilot and maintainer training. The two aircraft will be flown by 2 Operational Conversion Unit at RAAF Williamtown, leading the way for the re-equipping of 3 Squadron at the same location.
Australia has a requirement for 100 aircraft, of which the order of 72 has so far been announced. The F-35A will replace the RAAF's ageing Boeing F/A-18A/B 'legacy' Hornets and augment the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Full operating capability for the F-35A is slated for 2023.
While this event will mark the arrival of the F-35A at its future operating station, two aircraft had previously visited Australia during the Avalon Airshow in early 2017.
The F-35 is the central tenet in the RAAF's ambition to build itself up as the world's first fully networked 'fifth-generation' air force, with an ambitious procurement programme that includes the Super Hornet combat aircraft and Growler electronic attack aircraft; the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform; up to five Gulfstream 550 intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare (ISREW) aircraft; seven Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft systems; and the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-9 Reaper medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
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