08 September 2016
Australia is looking to increase its work on F-35 MRO. (photo : Lockheed Martin)
The Australian government is to seek an expanded role in supporting Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft in the Asia-Pacific region, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne confirmed on 6 September.
Pyne said in comments published by the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) that he plans to visit the United States in October when he will approach the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) to discuss extending the F-35 maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) responsibilities of Australian industry.
The arrangement would expand the role of Australia following a decision by the US DoD in December 2014 to assign F-35 airframe and engine MRO services to both Japan and Australia. Under this agreement, Japan will provide MRO capability for the Northern Pacific and Australia for the Southern Pacific.
Pyne said that the additional MRO responsibilities being sought are focused on F-35 components.
"I'm going to the States in October to meet with the JPO to talk about Australia being a maintenance and sustainment hub for Joint Strike Fighter operations into the future," said Pyne. "Obviously I'll be putting Australia's case as strongly as possible."
He added, "I'd like to extend [the existing agreement] to componentry and obviously I hope to meet with success… I'm going to sit down with the people who make the decision and put Australia's case because that could be worth billions of dollars to Australia over the decades into the future."
In February 2015 the Australian government selected BAE Systems Australia and Tasman Aviation Enterprises (TAE) to undertake the regional MRO on the F-35 and its Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. Under the agreement, BAE Systems and TAE will commence the MRO work in 2018, with the former providing heavy maintenance and sustainment capability at its depot in Williamtown, New South Wales, while TAE will service the F135 powerplant at its facility at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland.