Philip Smart | Adelaide
Work has begun on new facilities to support introduction of the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales.
Defence has turned the first sod on the New Air Combat Capability Facilities, the first step in a $1.5 billion project that will provide support infrastructure for the aircraft at 10 bases across Australia.
The new facilities at Williamtown will include an F-35 training complex for No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit, a combined 3 and 77 Squadron headquarters facility and hangars, off-aircraft component maintenance facility, off-board information systems centre to manage software updates and equipment preparation, new parking aprons, a deeper level maintenance facility and a centre for testing and painting the aircraft’s surface finish to maintain its low radar observability.
Facilities will also be constructed at RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal in the Northern Territory, RAAF Bases Townsville and Scherger in Queensland, RAAF Bases Curtin, Learmonth and Pearce in Western Australia, RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia and Defence Establishment Myambat in NSW.
Australia has committed to the acquisition of 72 F-35A aircraft, with the first expected to arrive on Australian soil in 2018.
Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson, from RAAF Base Williamtown, recently qualifying as the first Australian F-35A pilot in the United States.
The introduction of the F-35A aircraft to RAAF Base Williamtown reflects its position as Australia’s premier fighter training base for Australia’s air combat pilots.
The base houses No. 3 and No. 77 operational fighter squadrons, both operating F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, plus No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (F/A-18) and No. 76 Squadron, operating the Hawk Mk127 Lead-In Fighter training aircraft.