WASHINGTON — The Netherlands and Australia will serve as regional centers of F-35 equipment as part of the fifth-generation fighter’s global footprint, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
The move is part of a broader plan, launched in 2014, to create service hubs around the world for the various F-35 users. Countries have bid on the right to host parts of the sustainment program — such as Italy having a final assembly and check-out facility, or Japan having a heavy maintenance facility — because of the impact such facilities could have on local economies.
This particular aspect of the sustainment network will handle inventory management for Europe and the Pacific. Parts and supplies will be held and organized at these hubs, then shipped to various nations in the region, as opposed to those parts being shipped from manufacturers around the globe in what the program office says will be a cost-saving measure.
The Netherlands will service the other European nations — Denmark, Israel, Italy, Norway and the U.K. — that are part of the F-35 program, starting in September 2019. Australia will service Japan and South Korea, the other Pacific nations, starting in October 2020.
“As international F-35 deliveries increase and operations expand, support provided by our international F-35 users becomes more and more critical,” Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 program head, said in a statement. “We will continue to make well-informed, best-value decisions to create an effective and efficient global sustainment system for the F-35 fleet.”
The Pentagon will make future assignments for regional sustainment hubs, including “Support Equipment, Full Mission Simulators, Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), and Maintenance Training devices,” according to the statement. In 2016, the U.K. openly lobbied for the right to be an avionics sustainment hub under this plan.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.