In an exhilarating day for Australian military air power, the F-35A Lightning II made its public debut at the Australian International Airshow.
After a journey of about 15,000km Australia’s first two F-35As displayed their power and manoeuvrability in the sky above Avalon Airport before landing in front of an enthused crowd.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne, and Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, met the F-35A pilots WGCDR Andrew Jackson and SQNLDR David Bell and their support crew before speaking to the media.
Mr Turnbull said it was an exciting day for Air Force, Australian industry, technology and Australian jobs.
“The F-35A is the most advanced fighter in the world,” he said.
“We need to ensure our Defence force have the best capabilities and the greatest lethality.”
The F-35A is a key addition to Australia’s strategic capability and a critical component of the $195 billion defence investment.
The government is purchasing and will maintain 72 aircraft as part of the global Joint Strike Fighter program which will give Air Force the capability to combat future air threats to the nation.
Senator Payne said there wasn’t anything like the landing of two F-35As in Australia to make a defence minister’s day.
“This acquisition has been 15 years in the making and will make a game-changing difference to Air Force capability,” she said.
“The F-35A will provide the Air Force with the ability to execute air combat missions which were previously beyond our scope.”
The F-35A’s cutting edge stealth technology, sensors and the ability to share information across advanced networks will significantly strengthen the RAAF’s combat ability.
Acquiring F-35A aircraft will also reinforce the ability of our Air Force to operate seamlessly with the United States and our coalition partners to support our shared strategic interests.
Mr Pyne said the JSF program was maximising Australian industry involvement.
“Already 32 Australian companies had reaped about $800 million in value into their businesses,” he said.
The F-35A’s visit is an important step in Air Force’s transformation into a fifth-generation air force.