The Australian fleet of F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter aircraft achieved initial operational capability on December 28, exactly two years after the first unit arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown.
“The Australian defense force now has an F-35A squadron ready to conduct technologically advanced strike and air combat roles, and another squadron dedicated to providing world-class training here in Australia,” the country’s defense minister Linda Reynolds said.
“For the last two years, defense has rigorously tested the F-35A fleet to assess aircraft and system performance, and declare this important milestone.”
“While 2020 presented significant challenges to all of us, and travel restrictions made it difficult to ferry our aircraft to Australia, the huge efforts of Defence, industry and our partners in the United States made today’s achievement possible.”
2020 saw the country welcome its 30th F-35A, out of 72 aircraft it plans to buy. The jets will be flown by three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.
“Our defense industry has played a critical role in achieving today’s milestone, which continues the success story of Australia’s involvement in the F-35 global program,” defense industry minister Melissa Price said.
“Just last month we announced that more than 50 Australian companies have shared in $2.7 billion in contracts, demonstrating the Morrison Government’s commitment to backing Australian industry and supporting Australian jobs.
“Australia will continue to work with the United States F-35 Joint Program Office and our industry partners as more aircraft are delivered through to 2023, and a mature capability is achieved.”