The Australian Government will build an Aircraft Coating Facility at Newcastle Airport to maintain the stealth of Australia’s fleet of F-35A Lightning II aircraft. At Australia’s first dedicated coating facility, a specialised paint will be applied to the aircraft to ensure they are virtually invisible to an adversary’s radar. This work is vital for Australia’s air combat capability. The new facility is being established in partnership with BAE Systems Australia, which is responsible for the maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade activities for Australia’s fleet of 63 F-35A aircraft, which is being expanded to 72.
Establishing the facility will create up to 25 new local ongoing jobs, which will be integral to the larger team of around 360 local workers that already sustain the F-35As at Newcastle Airport. The design for the coating facility is due to be finalised by the end of this year, with construction expected to start around mid-2024. It is expected to cost more than $100 million and involve more than 100 local jobs in the construction phase.To date, only Australian F-35As have undergone maintenance by BAE at Newcastle Airport. The new coating facility will support the maintenance of other F-35A fleets operating in the Indo-Pacific, transforming Newcastle Airport into a future regional hub.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy:“This is a vote of confidence in the Hunter that ensures these world-class aircraft will operate and be sustained from Newcastle Airport for decades to come. The Hunter community can be proud to be playing a vital role in sustaining this critical defence capability not only for Australia, but also for our region. Defence industry companies in the Hunter and across Australia are already making a significant contribution to the F-35 program and this will grow in the years ahead.”
The sustainment and upgrades at Newcastle over the next 30 years will support up to 750 direct and indirect jobs across Australia. So far, more than 70 Australian companies have had contracts contributing to the F-35 program. In addition to BAE Systems Australia, other companies in the Hunter which have contributed to this success are the Nupress Group and Varley Group. The F-35A Lightning II is the Australian Defence Force’s first fifth-generation air combat capability. Australia has committed to 72 F-35A aircraft for three operational squadrons at: RAAF Base Williamtown, RAAF Base Tindal and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.