Team members from Momentum Media today welcomed the arrival of the Australia’s first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Williamtown.

The jets represent the first of Australia’s planned 72 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, with their arrival heralding the beginning of a new era for Australian air combat capability.

The Lockheed Martin-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is described as a game changer for not just the RAAF, but for the broader Australian Defence Force.

The $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program (the formal contract to select and procure the new jet fighters) is the largest single project in the Air Force’s history and marks the turning of the page in the branch’s air combat capabilities.

This capability roll-out will help facilitate the way Air Force transitions toward becoming an integrated, fifth-generation force.

Phillip Tarrant, Momentum Media’s director – defence and space, said it was a privilege to attend the official arrival of the F-35s.

“The F-35 story spans over a decade now for Australia. It’s a massive procurement project for the RAAF and a major step-change for our nation’s national security.

“The arrival marks the culmination of years of dedicated work from all sectors of Australia’s defence establishment and defence industry.

“There were certainly a lot of beaming faces and proud participants at the arrival, including our team at Defence Connect who have been focusing on the F-35 program now for many years,” he said.

The route saw Australia’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters A35-009 and A35-010 depart Luke Air Force Base in Arizona early last week, crossing the Pacific with a layover in Hawaii and RAAF Base Amberly in Queensland.

The aircraft made their final dash to RAAF Base Williamtown early this morning, wowing onlookers as they performed an aerobatic display with RAAF F/A-18 Hornets.

Australia’s Defence Minister Christoper Pyne officially welcomed the fifth-generation jets, and confirmed the increasingly important role they will play is firming Australia’s national security.

It has been a long road leading up to the successful arrival of A35-009 and A35-010 – one that has been mired with controversy over the capability and suitability of the aircraft for Australia’s operational and strategic reality.

As a multi-role aircraft, the F-35 is designed to fulfil a number of key operational, tactical and strategic roles throughout the battlespace.

The F-35’s advanced sensor package is designed to gather and distribute more information than any fighter in history, giving operators a decisive advantage over all adversaries.

“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.

“The Joint Strike Fighter is the largest acquisition in the history of the Royal Australian Air Force, and is a key part of the government’s $200 billion build-up in defence capability,” Minister Pyne said.

A platform for the future

Fifth-generation fighter aircraft represent the pinnacle of modern fighter technology.

As a fifth-generation aircraft, the F-35 is a blend of all-aspect stealth even when armed, low-probability-of-intercept radar, high-performance airframes, advanced avionics and highly-integrated computer systems bringing a gods-eye view of the battlespace.

Australian industry participation in the F-35 program has seen more than 50 Australian companies participate in various stages of the F-35 program to date, across manufacturing, training, maintenance and sustainment.

Early commitment to the global co-operative F-35 program has secured Australia as a key strategic partner and enabled Australian industry access to global supply chains.

This has already contributed significantly to Australia’s economy, with Australian industry having secured over $1.3 billion in production contracts to date through the global F-35 program.

The F-35 will provide more than just a quantum leap in capability for the RAAF and the individual warfighter. The aircraft will be responsible for supporting thousands of jobs around the nation.

Ten nations are currently flying F-35s, and with today’s arrival, Australia becomes the 7th nation with F-35 aircraft based locally on their home soil, joining the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan.

Additionally, with the formal stand-up of RAAF Williamtown, F-35s are now operating from 16 bases worldwide. More than 340 F-35s are operating today, more than 700 pilots and 6,500 maintainers have been trained and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 170,000 cumulative flight hours.