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Australia receives three more F-35s

New Australian F-35As at RAAF Base Williamtown.
Air Force's newest F-35A Lightning II aircraft – A35-031, A35-032 and A35-033 – arrive at RAAF Base Williamtown. Photo: Australian defense ministry

The Australian Air Force has welcomed three new F-35A Lightning II aircraft at RAAF Base Williamtown, and now has 33 of the planned 72 aircraft.

The F-35s joined the No. 81 Wing fleet on February 11, after completing a three-day journey from the United States as part of exercise Lightning Ferry 21-1.

During exercise Lightning Ferry 21-1, the three F-35As travelled from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, to RAAF Base Williamtown via Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

They were supported throughout the 12,700-kilometer journey by two KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft from No. 33 Squadron and a C-17A Globemaster from No 36 Squadron.

The new aircraft are the first to join the fleet since the F-35A reached initial operational capability with the RAAF in December 2020.

F-35A Lightning II aircraft A35-033 touches down at RAAF Base Williamtown after transiting from the United States. Photo: Royal Australian Air Force

Commanding Officer of No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) Wing Commander Jordon Sander said the additional aircraft would support the unit in delivering training in Australia.

“Australia’s F-35A fleet can be deployed on operations now that we have reached initial operational capability, so it’s important we continue the progression of the F-35A capability,” Wing Commander Sander said.

“The transit of the F-35A aircraft from Luke Air Force Base to RAAF Base Williamtown took three days; however, the exercise was a two-week activity requiring support from across our air forces,” Wing Commander Jordon Sander said.

“The integration of people and platforms required for the ferry of the aircraft is critical in achieving the success of the F-35A.

“We wouldn’t have been able to successfully ferry the aircraft to Australia if it wasn’t for the air-to-air refueling and airlift capabilities of our Air Mobility Group aircraft.”