Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II Achieves Initial Operational Capability (IOC)

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Australia’s F-35A Lightning II fleet can now be deployed on operations, with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) being officially achieved this month. 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 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. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said, “The F-35s are the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world. The fifth-generation F-35A, along with the F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, is key to our air combat capability and critical to achieving the objectives set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update to Shape, Deter and Respond. For the last two years, Defence has rigorously tested the F-35A fleet to assess aircraft and system performance, and declare this important milestone. I would like to thank everyone that has worked so hard to get us to this point; to have accomplished all the required testing and materiel delivery is remarkable.”

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The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Australia's F-35A Lightning II fleet
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Australia’s Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth multirole combat aircraft fleet

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said,”Cooperation with industry had set Defence up for long-term success. Our defence industry has played a critical role in achieving today’s milestone, which continues the success story of Australia’s involvement in the F-35 global program. Just last month we announced that more than 50 Australian companies have shared in $2.7 billion in contracts, demonstrating the Morrison Government’s commitment to backing Australian industry and supporting Australian jobs. Australia will continue to work with the United States F-35 Joint Program Office and our industry partners as more aircraft are delivered through to 2023, and a mature capability is achieved.”

The F-35A is at the forefront of air combat technology. Its advanced sensors and data fusion will allow 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. Australia has committed to 72 F-35A aircraft for three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown.

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