The first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter arrived at BAE Systems Australia’s Williamtown facility recently and was officially welcomed at an event today. The aircraft was welcomed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld and BAE Systems Australia Chief Executive Officer Gabby Costigan. As part of the ramp up to support F-35 sustainment, the company recently recruited 25 former Jetstar technicians, who lost their jobs due to the impact of COVID-19 on the commercial aviation industry.
Maintaining and sustaining the F-35 will create around 360 new direct jobs for BAE Systems Australia over the next 10 years, develop a specialist supply chain of around 76 SMEs and contribute some $70 million to GDP by 2025. The group has received a mix of training both in the US and alongside Royal Australia Air Force maintenance technicians at RAAF Base Williamtown ahead of sustainment work moving to the company’s adjacent facilities. This arrival of the first F-35 reflects the exceptional partnership and collaboration between the Australian Government, industry partners, and the F-35 Joint Program Office team. The first of 72 F-35A aircraft arrived in Australia in 2018.
BAE Systems Australia Chief Executive Officer Gabby Costigan said: “It is a privilege to contribute to this exciting global program. We look forward to delivering a critical maintenance capability, and continuing to partner with the RAAF, the Department of Defence, Lockheed Martin and Defence industry to support the global F-35 program. Importantly, this new work will deliver a real boost to this region through new jobs and opportunities for local businesses.”
BAE Systems’ Williamtown facility is the Southern Pacific Regional F-35 Heavy Airframe Depot and will support F-35 aircraft in the region for the next three decades. An initial team of 32 highly skilled F-35 technicians has been recruited to provide airframe maintenance and sustainment for the Depot. BAE Systems has provided fast jet maintenance and upgrades to RAAF aircraft from its Williamtown facility for almost three decades. The new role builds on the company’s heritage of fixed wing and rotary aircraft sustainment across Australia. BAE Systems has been awarded assignments by the F-35 Joint Program Office for the Regional Airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade (MRO&U) and the Regional Warehouse.