RAAF's first two F-35A fighter jets landed in Australia

In an historic day in Australian aviation, the first two F-35A Joint Strike Fighters to be permanently based in Australia arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown. The country's Minister for Defence, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, and Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, were there to welcome the aircraft and RAAF fighter pilots who flew the final leg in the journey from Luke Air Force Base Arizona.

RAAF first two F 35A aircraft landed in Australia on 10 December 2018 RAAF’s first two F-35A aircraft landed in Australia on 10 December 2018
(Credit: RAAF/Australian Ministry of Defence)

Minister Pyne said the Joint Strike Fighter will be a game-changer for the Australian Defence Force.

This is the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world. It will deliver next generation capability benefits and provide a major boost to our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities,” Minister Pyne said.

The Joint Strike Fighter can get closer to threats undetected; find, engage and jam electronic signals from targets; and share information with other platforms.

The federal government will spend a total of 12.3 billion U.S. dollars on 72 F-35 aircraft. The exact cost of maintaining the aircraft won't be known until the end of 2020. By that time, Australia is expected to have an operational fleet of 12, with another 18 fighters on the ground.

The Lockheed-Martin-built Joint Strike Fighter will be operated by nine partner nations, reaffirming and strengthening Australia’s alliance with the United States and other key international partners including the United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

In Australia’s immediate region, Japan and South Korea are in the process of procuring the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, and are closely aligned with Australia’s pursuit of shared strategic, security and economic interests,” Minister Pyne said.

Minister Ciobo said the aircraft created significant opportunities for Australian defence industry that was creating new jobs. “Australian industry is manufacturing parts that will be fitted to every F-35 in production globally, and more than 50 Australian companies have directly shared in $1.2 billion [US$866 million] in production contracts to date,” Minister Ciobo said.

The two aircraft arrived in Australia following a cross-Pacific ferry from Luke Air Force Base Arizona and will be operated by the Air Force’s Number 3 Squadron.

The F-35A Joint Strike Fighters will be based at RAAF Base Williamtown and at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.