written by Adam Thorn

Photo: The RAAF’s newest F-35A Lightning II aircraft arrive at RAAF Base Williamtown. (Corporal Craig Barrett)

The RAAF has taken delivery of two more F-35A Lighting II aircraft, taking its current fleet to 50.

No. 3 Squadron was responsible for the safe arrival of the aircraft into Australia in May following its ferry across the Pacific Ocean from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

The F-35 is the country’s newest fighter, bought to replace the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that were in service since 1985 and retired in late 2021.

Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program, with all expected to be fully operational by 2023.

Commanding Officer of No. 3 Squadron, Wing Commander Adrian Kiely, said the RAAF F-35A aircraft participated in Exercise Black Flag 22-1 and integration activities with the US Air Force’s (USAF) 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron before the ferry to Australia.

“As our F-35A fleet continues to increase, we’re opening the door to new opportunities such as the first-ever forward area refuelling of an Australian F-35A with a United States HC-130J,” WGCDR Kiely said.

“We’ve brought back not only more aircraft to Australia, but also a more highly skilled workforce to further benefit the wider Air Force.”

Thus far, the fighters have clocked in excess of 15,000 flight hours and have already achieved initial operational capability, making it combat-ready.

The aircraft comes in three variants: the F-35A – purchased by Australia – is a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) version; the F-35B is a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the final F-35C is the carrier type (CV).

In June 2021, Australian Aviation reported how two F-35s took to the skies with a full complement of weapons for the first time.

You may also like

Leave a comment