Australia’s first two F-35 joint strike fighters have landed in Australia to debut at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon, Victoria, today.
They join two other new members of the RAAF’s armoury, the first EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, which are also on show in Australia for the first time.
The Lockeed Martin jets, AU1 and AU2, are the first of 72 F-35A Lightning IIs in the controversial and delayed Joint Strike Fighter program, costing $17.1 billion.
The Australian government chose conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A Lightning II to replace the Hornet fighter fleet in 2009. But delays and cost blow-outs mean the first F-35s won’t officially arrive in Australia until late 2018 before entering service in 2020.
The RAAF now has 24 F/A-18Fs and 12 EA-18G Growlers coming as part of the interim capability measures.
In December, the US nominated Australia as the regional maintenance and sustainment base in the Asia Pacific for the Joint Strike Fighter program.
As part of that Australia will host the US air force’s most deadliest aircraft, the F-22 Raptor, among other military assets, as the US aims to leverage the country’s proximity to the disputed South China Sea.
At the time of the announcement Adm. Harry Harris, the head of the US Pacific Command, told reporters in Sydney that the US was “ready to confront” China should it continue its aggressive course in the South China Sea.
The F-35’s stealth technology, sensors and the ability to share information across advanced networks is expected to strengthen the RAAF’s combat ability.
This month the US air force’s conducted a Red Flag air combat exercise — and the F-35s slaughtered the competition.
Aviation Week reported that the joint strike fighter killed 15 aggressors for each F-35 downed. That ratio was achieved in an increased threat environment that included radar jamming, increased air threats, and surface-to-air missile batteries.
The F-35s on show at Avalon this weekend will return to the US after the airshow for continued training with their Australian pilots.
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