Australia's first two in-country F-35As are starting flying operations this week out of RAAF Williamtown as preparation for Initial Operational Capability (IOC) ramps up.
Commander of Air Combat Group Air Commodore Michael Kitcher said the two aircraft are beginning a phase of operations designed to verify and validate the jet’s capabilities in the lead-up to the declaration of IOC at the end of 2020.
“At the end of 2019, Air Combat Group expects to have taken delivery of up to eight aircraft,’’ AIRCDRE Kitcher said.
“In December 2020, Australia will have up to 33 aircraft, established a sovereign training capability and completed verification and validation of the Australian F-35A capability.
“By the end of 2020 one operational squadron will be proficient in air combat, strike and offensive air support, and ready to deploy in support of Australia’s national interests.”
The IOC process is designed to test how the weapons system interfaces with local ICT systems and infrastructure such as that newly-completed at Williamtown and also underway at RAAF Tindal.
The aircraft are also the first to be hosted on the sovereign Australian version of the F-35A’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). This will also be comprehensively tested over the next two years.
ALIS development/testing/delivery is being led by the US to track and supply spares as needed in conjunction with regional warehousing. Australia is home to a regional warehouse, which will be operated by BAE Systems.