The first F-35A aircraft has been inducted into BAE Systems Australia’s (BAESA) maintenance depot as part of the next milestone in the Joint Strike Fighter Program.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the F-35A fleet was now 33 strong and ready to deploy on operations.
“This is about protecting and securing Australia’s interests but it’s also creating jobs and driving investment right here in the Hunter and across the country too,” he said.
“This induction demonstrates the world leading capability of our local defence industry here in Australia.
“We want to give as many opportunities to Australian companies as possible which is why there’s already more than 50 local companies sharing in $2.7 billion worth of contracts as part of the F-35 Program. This investment is keeping Australians safe and secure while creating more jobs and more opportunities for businesses.”
After being selected as the maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade depot for the Southeast Asia region, the BAESA facility will host Australian F-35A aircraft, and in future, other nations’ F-35 aircraft.
The program is progressing on budget and on schedule and the aircraft is undergoing routine structural modifications to improve the airframe, ensuring it reaches full life, and align it with newer aircraft.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds CSC said up to four Australian F-35A aircraft were expected to undergo routine maintenance at BAESA’s facility this year, demonstrating the significant boost the Program was having on the local Hunter economy.
“The Morrison Government is unashamedly committed to building a robust sovereign defence industry,” Minister Reynolds said.
“We are building our sovereign defence capabilities. We now have 41 fully trained RAAF pilots, nine of whom trained on home soil at RAAF Base Williamtown. We also have more than 225 trained technicians
as the RAAF’s F-35A maintenance capability continues to develop.”
This progress is being supported through the sovereign Training Support Services contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Australia, worth approximately $70 million. It will see more than 70 personnel
employed at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal.
“This demonstrates the extraordinary opportunities this program is providing for Australians and the economy, especially as it continues to bounce back from COVID-19,” Reynolds said.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the program had helped the people of the Hunter region weather the impact of the economic impact of the pandemic.
“In 2020, job losses in the aeronautics industry due to COVID-19 resulted in the closure of Jetstar’s aircraft maintenance facility here in Newcastle, and many other regional facilities,” Minister Price said.
“BAESA recently hired 25 former Jetstar employees who had been made redundant as a result of the pandemic.
“Not only have these technical workers been retained in the local Hunter aviation industry, but they will also help Defence build its sovereign sustainment capability as the fleet continues to grow.”