Australia's first F-35 is presented during a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas. (Nigel Pittaway)
FORT WORTH, TEXAS — The first F-35A for the Royal Australian Air Force was rolled out during a ceremony at the Lockheed Martin facility.
The Thursday ceremony was attended by dignitaries including Australia’s ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley; Minister for Finance Sen. Mathias Cormann; Frank Kendall, US undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; and Australian Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown.
The second aircraft has also been completed and both are now awaiting completion of Block 3I software testing before making their first flights in November.
“More than 10 years ago, Australia made the bold decision to partner with the United States and other like-minded nations on the F35 program,” Cormann said.
“It has been a major project for Australia and it was great foresight by then Minister for Defense Robert Hill to recognize the importance of the F-35 program. Australia became a partner in the F-35 for many good reasons, which are as valid today as they were a decade ago.”
“Today represents a very significant day for the Royal Australian Air Force, as we step down as the fourth nation in the world to take delivery of a fifth- generation aircraft,” Brown said during the roll-out ceremony.
“It enables the transformation of the Australian Defence Force into a fifth-generation defense force.”
Australia has bought the two F-35As to support initial training in the United States and has also committed to a further 70 aircraft.
The initial two aircraft will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, early in 2015 for operations with the US Air Force’s 61st Fighter Squadron.
Deliveries to Australia are expected to begin in 2018 and initial operational capability is expected to follow at the end of 2020. In Australian service, the F-35A will replace the current F/A-18A/B Hornet fleet in three fighter squadrons and an operational conversion unit. ■