Australia, the Netherlands and the UK will be the first nations to establish global repair hubs outside the USA to support the Lockheed Martin F-35 as it begins to ramp up overseas operations.

Maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrades for the period 2021-2025 will be carried out in these countries, which will together be responsible for 65 of a possible 774 repairable elements of the F-35, says the US Department of Defense.

The DoD has assigned 48 of the first 65 components to the UK, 14 to the Netherlands, and three to Australia, collectively providing some 8% of the total sustainment work.

As the programme steadily builds over this initial period, the DoD believes that one global hub for each component will be sufficient for the expected demand. However, as the roll-out of the type and subsequent operations increases beyond 2025, regional hubs in Europe and Asia-Pacific will have to be established to deal with this demand.

From 2025 that requirement in Europe will be satisfied by the UK and the Netherlands, each of which will be responsible for 51 and 14 of the 65 components, respectively.

In the Asia-Pacific, meanwhile, repairs of 64 of the first 65 components will be carried out in Australia during this second period, and one in South Korea.

“This is the first of many opportunities we will have to assign F-35 global sustainment solutions for component repair work,” says F-35 programme executive officer Lt Gen Chris Bogdan.

“As international F-35 deliveries increase and global operations expand, support provided by our international F-35 users becomes increasingly more important. We are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside these nations on a daily basis; this close teamwork enables the US defence department to make well-informed, best-value decisions to shape the F-35 global sustainment posture for decades to come.”

F-35 at RIAT - Mark Kwiatkowski

Mark Kwiatkowski/FlightGlobal

The UK, the largest beneficiary of this initial package, will perform the repairs in North Wales, with the Ministry of Defence foreseeing that some £2 billion ($2.5 billion) of support work could be available over the lifetime of the programme.

This contract covers avionics and aircraft component MRO, to be carried out by the government-owned Defence Electronics and Components Agency, based at MoD Sealand. The repair service is expected to become operational in early 2018.

Companies including BAE Systems, GE Aviation, Martin Baker, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Rockwell Collins and RUAG and have been allocated work to support the Australian components.