After a 16-year wait, Australia's first two locally-based F-35A Joint Strike Fighters have touched down at RAAF Williamtown.
The event was attended by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor of NSW GEN (Ret'd) David Hurley, Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne, Minister for Defence Industry Steven Ciobo, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, and head of the F-35 program VADM Mat Winter, alongside RAAF's 3 Squadron and their families.
The two fighters flew to RAAF Williamtown from RAAF Amberley following a flight across the Pacific from Luke AFB, Arizona where they have been in the international training pool since coming off the production line. The landing was preceded by a thunderous aerial display from F/A-18 Hornets and formation flying involving both Hornets and the F-35As.
Once the F-35As touched down, they taxied towards the audience waiting at the newly-built hangars.
"This is the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world," Minister Pyne said in his address. "It will deliver next generation capability benefits and provide a major boost to our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
"The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) can get closer to threats undetected; find, engage, and jam electronic signals from targets; and share information with other platforms.
"The JSF is the largest acquisition in the history of the RAAF. In Australia's immediate region, Japan and South Korea are in the process of procuring the F-35A, and are closely aligned with Australia's pursuit of shared strategic, security, and economic interests," Minister Pyne said.
Whilst the two F-35As at Williamtown are the first to arrive in-country, eight further aircraft have been delivered to the RAAF at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for pilot training. Australian F-35s have flown over 1,800 hours.
In addition, over 50 Australian companies have shared in over $1 billion in production contracts, with significant percentages of that share in specialised manufacturing and professional or scientific services.
65 per cent of Australian production contracts for the aircraft have come from Victoria, with 13 per cent from NSW and nine per cent from both Queensland and SA.
Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies was visibly excited as he took the podium to commemorate the occasion.
"How do you excite a RAAF chief?" he asked, pointing to the F-35As.
"Whilst it's a modest beginning with just two jets, a dozen pilots and 40 maintainers... this represents the transformation of Air Force. We are evolving our structure and the way we train.
"Today, ladies and gentlemen, the naysayers can take a seat."