The Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is set to make its Australian debut, with two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35As preparing to cross the Pacific Ocean to attend the Avalon Airshow (February 28 to March 5). The RAAF has taken delivery of two out of 72 F-35As on order, both which are currently based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for testing and training. The two jets will return to the U.S. after the airshow, via the RAAF airbase at Amberley.
The F-35s will start replacing the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Hornets in 2018. According to a submission by Lockheed-Martin to the Australian Senate in 2016, Australia’s defense industry has been heavily involved in the design, development and manufacturing of the F-35, having already secured more than $554 million (U.S.) worth of design and production work. Australian companies were also big winners in the recent selection of F-35 Tier 1 repair and maintenance assignments, being assigned 10 out of 11 categories for repair and warehousing of repairable components for the Pacific and/or South Pacific region.
Speaking at a defense industry event at Australia’s capital Canberra, Australian defense minister Marise Payne also revealed that the F-35 will be joined at the Avalaon Airshow by Australia’s first Boeing EA-18G Growler Electronic Attack aircraft. Australia has ordered 12 Growlers, which will start arriving this year following crew training with the U.S. Navy at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.
“Together, the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the EA-18G Growler represent a potent and technologically advanced air combat and strike capability that is essential to our ability to defend Australia and our national interests,” said Payne. She also noted that Australia is the only country outside the U.S. to operate the Growler, which “represents a significant leap forward in our capability, introducing a dedicated electronic attack capability for the first time.”