• Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft conduct a flypast of HMAS Sydney during an air warfare serial off the coast of New South Wales. (Defence)
    Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft conduct a flypast of HMAS Sydney during an air warfare serial off the coast of New South Wales. (Defence)
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Australia’s F-35A Lightning II fleet can now be deployed on operations after Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was officially achieved on December 28.

“The fifth-generation F-35A, along with the F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, is key to our air combat capability and critical to achieving the objectives set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update to Shape, Deter and Respond,” Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said.

“For the last two years, Defence has rigorously tested the F-35A fleet to assess aircraft and system performance, and declare this important milestone.

“I would like to thank everyone that has worked so hard to get us to this point; to have accomplished all the required testing and materiel delivery is remarkable. The ADF now has an F-35A squadron ready to conduct technologically advanced strike and air combat roles, and another squadron dedicated to providing world-class training here in Australia.

“While 2020 presented significant challenges to all of us, and travel restrictions made it difficult to ferry our aircraft to Australia, the huge efforts of Defence, industry and our partners in the US made today’s achievement possible.”

“This IOC ushers in a new era of Australian air power that gives the RAAF transformational and game-changing capabilities,” said Joe North, Lockheed Martin Australia chief executive. “As the Original Equipment Manufacturer and lead industry sustainment partner for Australia’s F-35A fleet, Lockheed Martin congratulates the RAAF on achieving this milestone, and we stand ready to support the fleet with our industry partners.”

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said cooperation with industry had set Defence up for long-term success.

“Our defence industry has played a critical role in achieving today’s milestone, which continues the success story of Australia’s involvement in the F-35 global program,” Minister Price said.

“Just last month we announced that more than 50 Australian companies have shared in $2.7 billion in contracts, demonstrating the Morrison Government’s commitment to backing Australian industry and supporting Australian jobs.

“Australia will continue to work with the United States F-35 Joint Program Office and our industry partners as more aircraft are delivered through to 2023, and a mature capability is achieved.”

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