Australia just took delivery of three fifth-generation F35A warplanes from Lockheed Martin.
And not just regular F35As. They’re the first jets given to a program partner outside the US that have Block 3F capability unlocked.
Here’s what that means, according to Australia’s Minister for Defence Marise Payne:
It is great progress that Australia has accepted delivery of our next 3 Joint Strike Fighters.
These latest aircraft are fitted with the program’s final software system, which unlocks its full war-fighting potential including weapons, mission systems & flight performance. pic.twitter.com/1UaM96WZ4i
— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) April 9, 2018
“Unlocks its full war-fighting potential” is something even the US Navy doesn’t have. Its F-35Cs won’t complete Block 3F testing until at least late 2018.
Israel is understood to have JSFs with Block 3F capability unlocked, however, according to Janes, it is a customer rather than a partner.
Australia now has five of the F35As stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, with five more scheduled to arrive by the end of the year.
It will eventually take delivery of 72 F-35A Lightning II aircraft to replace its fleet of 71 F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets.