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Fighter jets returning to Australia’s training hub after upgrade works

Australian F-35A
Photo: Royal Australian Air Force

Royal Australian Air Force fighter jets will begin returning to RAAF Base Williamtown next week after the completion of extensive runway works at the base.

The works at RAAF Base Williamtown and Newcastle airport had temporarily shortened the runway from the preferred operating length for the F-35A Lightning II.

These upgrades forced the jets to operate out of RAAF Bases Darwin and Townsville.

The squadrons returning to Williamtown following a three month deployment will include Number 81 Wing F-35A Lightning II squadrons —No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit, No. 3 Squadron and No. 77 Squadron.

RAAF Base Williamtown received the upgrades as part of an A$164.9 million (approx. USD112M) contract awarded by the Australian defense ministry to Downer EDI Works late last year.

The project was undertaken to carry out maintenance and improve critical airfield infrastructure to ensure RAAF Base Williamtown continues to support the projection of Australia’s air power and also enable movements of larger civilian aircraft for Newcastle Airport.

“RAAF Base Williamtown is the Royal Australian Air Force’s main airbase for fighter pilot training and supports a large workforce of Defence personnel,” then defense industry minister Melissa Price said in December 2021.

RAAF Base Williamtown was one of several Australian bases that received an F-35A operational precinct, runway pavement upgrades, and explosive ordnance preparation facilities in preparation for the introduction of the F-35A into Australian service in 2019.