• Defence

The Government recently signed stage two of a facility services deed with BAE Systems Australia worth $110 million, which is in addition to its initial first stage commitment of $100 million announced in 2022. Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said that the government's doubling of its initial investment with BAE Systems Australia will secure the Hunter Valley's future as an F-35 sustainment hub in the Indo-Pacific region.

The funding boost will enable BAE Systems Australia to build seven more maintenance bays to increase overall capacity to 13 bays to help service the growing F-35 fleet in the Indo-Pacific.

Newcastle Airport could potentially be used by other nations to sustain and service a global F-35 fleet that’s expected to reach more than 3,000 aircraft.

This latest announcement comes after the Government signed the first facility services deed with BAE Systems Australia in November 2022 to build four new F-35 maintenance bays at BAE Systems Australia’s South Hangar, Newcastle Airport.

Sixty-three of Australia’s 72 F-35A Lightning II aircraft have been accepted to date. All 72 of Australia’s F-35A aircraft, based at Williamtown and Tindal, will be sustained and upgraded at the Hunter facility.

“This contract extension more than doubles our initial investment in the F-35 sustainment hub at Williamtown and underscores the Albanese Government’s commitment to growing our defence industry," Minister Conroy said.

“Australian defence industry is already a vital contributor of maintenance and sustainment services for the global F-35 fleet, which is expected to reach more than 3,000 aircraft. Establishing the Hunter as an Indo-Pacific hub for F-35 repair and maintenance is a testament to the high level of skills and knowledge among our defence industry workforce.”

A BAE Systems Australia spokesperson said the company is expanding its Williamtown operations to meet demand as the RAAF's fleet of F-35As grows to 72 aircraft.

“This is a major milestone for the aviation industry in the Hunter region. The North Hangar construction program will add up to 7 new hangar bays for F-35 sustainment," the spokesperson said.

“A new Aircraft Coating Facility, announced by Minister Conroy earlier this year, is part of this broader expansion to prepare for future sustainment of the F-35 fleet."

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