The F-35A Lightning II is the Australian Defence Force’s first fifth-generation air combat capability. It is a highly advanced multi-role, supersonic, stealth fighter which will meet Australia’s requirements to defeat current and emerging threats.

The F-35A is at the forefront of air combat technology.  Its advanced sensors and data fusion will allow it to gather more information and share it with other Air Force aircraft, Navy ships and Army units quicker than ever before. This will greatly enhance the Australian Defence Force’s situational awareness and combat effectiveness. In addition, to greatly enhanced situational awareness, the F-35A provides its pilots with significantly higher levels of lethality and survivability in combat.

Australia has committed to 72 F-35A aircraft for three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown.

The first F-35A aircraft was accepted into Australian service in 2018, with the first arriving in country in December that year.  The first F-35A squadron, No. 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

The F-35A is being purchased by the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group under project AIR 6000 Phase 2A/2B - New Air Combat Capability


About the aircraft

The F-35A is characterised by:

  • a low observable design
  • internal weapons and fuel carriage
  • advanced radar
  • electro-optical and infrared sensors
  • advanced voice and data link communications, and
  • the ability to employ a wide range of air-to-surface and air-to-air weapons.

It is the most suitable aircraft to replace the ageing F/A-18A/B Hornets.

Capable of supersonic flight while retaining stealth, the F-35A has extraordinary acceleration, agility and 9G manoeuvrability.

On 17 July 2015, the Department of the Environment and Energy published the approval decision for the flying operations of the F-35A, after considering the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).