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Australia receives milestone 30th F-35A fighter

Royal Australian Air Force F-35A
The 30th Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II. Photo: Australian defense ministry

The Royal Australian Air Force has recently taken delivery of the 30th F-35A Lightning II aircraft from Lockheed Martin, the country’s defense ministry has announced.

The ministry announcement highlighted the work undertaken before Australia can formally accept each jet, with pre-acceptance testing involving multiple checks on the production line at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Texas, as well as several flight tests to ensure each F-35A is up to the tasks the RAAF requires.

F-35A Air Vehicle Lead Squadron Leader Brook Porter is about to wrap up his three-year posting to Joint Strike Fighter Branch in Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, where he has been involved in accepting 28 F-35A aircraft.

Squadron Leader Porter said the in-depth acceptance process ensured each F-35A was ready for Australian defence registration and operational use.

“Working with local and international stakeholders, the team has also been integral to ferrying the majority of these aircraft to Australia from the US,” Squadron Leader Porter said.

“It’s rewarding to be part of the team establishing Australia’s future air-combat capability. It’s much bigger than simply delivering an aircraft.

“It’s important to remain vigilant and stick to our ‘smart-customer’ approach. This means we are constantly asking questions to ensure we are getting value for money, as we strive to deliver Australia’s fifth-generation fighter jet capability.”

Australia is buying 72 F-35s for three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown.

The first F-35A aircraft was accepted into Australian service in 2018, with the first arriving in country in December that year. The first F-35A squadron, No. 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021.

After all 72 aircraft reach full operational capability, expected by 2023, the country will consider another 28 airframes for a fourth operational squadron at RAAF Base Amberley.