The first Lockheed Martin F-35As to be permanently based in Australia have arrived at the Royal Australian Air Force's Williamtown base in New South Wales.
Bearing the registrations A35-009 and A35-010, the pair reached their new home after a ferry flight across the Pacific from Luke AFB in Arizona, says defence minister Christopher Pyne.
The two F-35As approach RAAF Williamtown
“This is the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world,” says Pyne. “It will deliver next generation capability benefits and provide a major boost to our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The Joint Strike Fighter can get closer to threats undetected; find, engage and jam electronic signals from targets; and share information with other platforms.”
The pair are part of an overall acquisition of 72 F-35As for Australia, valued at A$17 billion ($12 billion), and have been assigned to the air force's 3 Sqn. Ultimately, F-35As will operate from the service's bases at Williamtown and Tindal, Northern Territory.
The F-35A will replace Canberra's fleet of F/A-18A/Bs
The RAAF aims to achieve initial operating capability with the type in December 2020. This milestone will include the availability of weapons such as the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, Boeing JDAMs and small diameter bombs, and the fighter's internal 25mm cannon.
Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Australia has taken delivery of 10 F-35As. Most of these are now serving with an international training school at Luke AFB.
This is not the first time the F-35A has been in Australia. The type also visited Airshow Australia at Avalon, Queensland in early 2017.