Exercise Lightning Ferry was conducted in November 2020, with the arrival of up to nine F-35A Lightning II aircraft at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Williamtown, NSW. The aircraft traveled from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, United States, to their new home base supported by Air Force KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft. Australia has now received 30 of the planned 72-strong fleet. Australia has committed to three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. In the future, a fourth operational squadron will be considered for RAAF Base Amberley, for a total of 100 F-35A aircraft. The first F-35A aircraft was accepted into Australian service in 2018, with the first arriving in country in December that year. The first F-35A squadron, No. 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021.
The F-35A Lightning II is the Australian Defence Force’s first fifth-generation air combat capability. It is a highly advanced multi-role, supersonic, stealth fighter which will meet Australia’s requirements to defeat current and emerging threats. The F-35A is at the forefront of air combat technology. Its advanced sensors and data fusion allows it to gather more information and share it with other Air Force aircraft, Navy ships and Army units quicker than ever before. This will greatly enhance the Australian Defence Force’s situational awareness and combat effectiveness. In addition, to greatly enhanced situational awareness, the F-35A provides its pilots with significantly higher levels of lethality and survivability in combat.
Every F-35 built contains parts and components manufactured in Australia – local companies are realising the industrial benefits of the program.By operating the same aircraft as allies in the Asia-Pacific and around the world, the RAAF will take advantage of the F-35’s powerful sensors to share data to an unprecedented level of interoperability. The global fleet of F-35s will also give Australia advantages in economies of scale on the production and sustainment of more than 3,000 F-35s for decades to come. As a programme partner, Australian businesses have the opportunity to supply components for production and sustainment of the entire F-35 fleet, not just Australian aircraft. Every F-35 built will contain some Australian parts and components.