The Australian Defence Force received its first two F-35A aircraft this weekend, becoming the seventh nation worldwide with Joint Strike Fighters on home soil, Lockheed Martin [LMT] said. The two aircraft arrived at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Williamtown on Dec. 10 local time, the company said.
“The arrival of the first F-35 aircraft to be permanently based in Australia is a historic occasion and we are proud of our role as the 5th Generation design pioneer and F-35 original equipment manufacturer,” said Vince Di Pietro, chief executive of Lockheed Martin Australia, in an emailed statement. Australia selected the F-35 in 2009 to replace its legacy Hornet fleet. It has committed to procuring 72 jets to be flown by local pilots. Ten of its aircraft have been received, and with the exception of the two delivered on Sunday, they are stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where they are part of the international cooperative F-35 training operations. As a program partner, the country supplies components for production and sustainment for the entire global F-35 fleet. To date, the F-35 program has generated more than $930 million in contracts for Australian industry. Initial operating capability is currently slated for December 2020, according to the Australian Defence Forces. “Flown by Australian pilots, maintained by Australian maintenance personnel and containing many best-of-breed advanced components made right here in Australia, all Australians have every reason to be proud of this achievement,” Di Pietro said. Ten nations are currently flying F-35s, and Australia joins the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan in having Joint Strike Fighters based locally on their home soil. More than 340 F-35s are operating today, according to Lockheed Martin. More than 700 pilots and 6,500 maintainers have been trained and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 170,000 cumulative flight hours, the company added.