Australia will develop a domestic facility to apply stealth coatings to the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter.

The new Aircraft Coating Facility will be built at Newcastle Airport, New South Wales, and will support the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) fleet of F-35As, says Australia’s Department of Defence.

RAAF F-35A Lockheed Martin

Source: Commonwealth of Australia

An F-35A of the Royal Australian Air Force. The type’s stealth coatings need to be periodically reapplied

The facility will be the first of its kind in Australia and will be developed in conjunction with BAE Systems Australia.

The RAAF operates 63 F-35As, a number that will eventually grow to 72.

Construction is expected to start in mid-2024 and the facility will cost over A$100 million ($88 million).

During a doorstop interview, Australia’s minister for defence industry Pat Conroy suggested that the facility will also support F-35s operated by other nations.

“This stealth coating facility will not just be important to Australia’s fleet of F-35s; it will support F-35s in the region, whether it’s visiting US Marine [Corps] aircraft, it could be F-35s from Singapore or broader in the Indo-Pacific,” says Conroy.

He adds that the coatings need to be “reapplied every so often” to ensure the fighter retains its low radar signature, but did not give a specific timeframe. He also declined to comment on whether the stealth coating is delivered to Australia, or whether it will be produced locally.