The Royal Australian Air Force has announced that first two F-35A Joint Strike Fighters aircraft are scheduled to begin flying operations this week.
“AAF Base Williamtown is advising Hunter residents that our two F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft are scheduled to begin flying operations this week (from 21-25 January 2019), ” said in a statement.
The first two aircraft arrived in Australia on 10 December 2018.
Commander of Air Combat Group (ACG), Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Michael Kitcher said the two aircraft will begin a phase of operations designed to verify and validate the jet’s capabilities during 2019-2020 in the lead-up to the declaration of the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) at the end of 2020.
“At the end of 2019, Air Combat Group expects to have taken delivery of up to eight aircraft,’’ Air Commodore Kitcher said.
“In December 2020, Australia will have up to 33 aircraft, established a sovereign training capability and completed verification and validation of the Australian F-35A capability.
“By the end of 2020 one operational squadron will be proficient in air combat, strike and offensive air support, and ready to deploy in support of Australia’s national interests.”
The Australian Government has approved the acquisition of 72 aircraft and the F-35A fleet will comprise of three operational squadrons.
Numbers 3 and 77 Squadron operate out of RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales, and Number 75 Squadron based at RAAF Base Tindal near Katherine, Northern Territory. Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit squadron will also fly F-35A out of RAAF Base Williamtown.
The majority of the $1.5B invested to house and support the F-35A have been constructed at RAAF Base Williamtown. The facilities include new working accommodation, maintenance hangars, storage, workshop facilities, training facilities, aircraft runway, and pavement works.