25 Agustus 2014
RAAF AU-1 and AU-2 F-35A aircraft (all photos : Australian Aviation)
The first two Australian F-35A aircraft, known as AU-1 and AU-2, rolled out of the Lockheed-Martin F-35 facility in Fort Worth on 24 July 2014.
Senator Mathias Cormann, representing the Minister for Defence, Senator David Johnston, attended the event in Fort Worth to mark the milestone. Senator Johnston was unable to attend the event due to pressing Government business linked to the MH-17 tragedy.
At the ceremony attended by senior US Government and Defence representatives, Senator Cormann said that the F-35A will provide ‘leading edge’ air combat capabilities for the Australian Defence Force for decades to come.
“The most recent approval by this Government of a further tranche of 58 F-35A aircraft on top of the 14 already approved certainly sends a strong message about the Coalition’s commitment to building a stronger defence force, and to contributing significantly to security in our region,” he said.
Senator Cormann said that being a Partner in the F-35 program is not just about the leading edge capability it represents, but also about the access it provides to advanced aerospace technology, and also for the way it has transformed parts of the Australian aerospace industrial base.
“The US-Australian Alliance and engagement on collaborative defence programs is crucial to Australia maintaining the capability edge it needs,” he said.
Senator Cormann said there were several significant opportunities for Australian industry, including making 722 sets of vertical tails for the F-35, producing composite panels for the fuselage of the F-35, manufacturing the weapons carriers, decoy flares, and other components.
“With the commitment and support of Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney, a steady F-35 production ramp up, and a continuing favourable Australian dollar, I expect Australian industry do very well on the F-35 program over many years. Some 30 Australian companies have been directly involved in the F-35 program to date, and more than $412 million in production orders have been won with only about 3 per cent of aircraft production completed to date,” he said.
The Government expects that Australia’s commitment to purchase any further aircraft will be reciprocated by a commitment from Lockheed Martin to increase these large opportunities for Australian Industry.
Following a period of aircraft airworthiness and acceptance activities, these two aircraft will ferry to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where they will be inducted into the 61st Fighter Squadron where US and Australian F-35 pilots will train side-by-side.
Initial RAAF pilot training will begin in the United States in early 2015.
From 2018 the Australian Defence Force will commence ferry flights of JSF aircraft to Australia.