The Royal Australian Air Force has taken delivery of three Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters at Luke AFB in Arizona.

The three aircraft are equipped with the type’s block 3F software, a more capable version than the 3I software installed in its first two examples, says Australia's defence minister Marise Payne.

“These latest aircraft are fitted with the program’s final software system, which unlocks the aircraft’s full war-fighting potential including weapons, mission systems and flight performance.”

She adds that Australia is the first international partner to accept jets with Block 3F software.

“This is another key step towards introducing the aircraft into service before its arrival in Australia in December this year.”

The delivery brings the RAAF’s fleet to five examples. Five more jets will be delivered by the end of 2018.

Australia is obtaining 72 F-35As to replace its ageing Boeing F/A-18 A/B Hornets.

In December, Australia announced that 18 of its “Classic” Hornets will be sold to Canada, with deliveries to start in 2019. The aircraft will fill a Canadian capability gap while Ottawa decides on its own replacement plans for its 88 CF-18 A/B fighters.