F-35A Project Gathers Pace
(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued May 22, 2018)
The Air Combat Systems Program Office (ACSPO) was stood up at RAAF Base Williamtown recently as the Australian F-35A Project moves full steam ahead towards First Aircraft Arrival in December.

ACSPO, part of Aerospace Systems Division in Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), is the in-service support agency responsible for managing the sustainment arrangements of the Australian F-35A Air System.

The F-35A Air Vehicle and associated off-board mission and support systems are being procured under Project AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B within the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Division. It will transition into sustainment from the end of this year to the anticipated declaration of F-35A Final Operating Capability in late 2023.

The inaugural Officer Commanding ACSPO, Group Captain (GPCAPT) Gerry van Leeuwen, said his priorities this year related to the establishment of a functional Systems Program Office (SPO) and its integration into the F-35 enterprise.

“Given ACSPO is responsible for sustainment of the F-35A Air System, the organisation is critical to the delivery of the F-35A capability,” GPCAPT van Leeuwen said.

“GPCAPT Angela Castner and the Air Combat Transition Team did some great work last year laying the foundations for our success. We will be seeking early opportunities to support the JSF Division to transition sustainment activities in the lead-up to the arrival of the first aircraft in December, as well as maturing the organisation, its processes and interfaces with Air Combat Group (ACG) to support Initial Operating Capability (IOC) at the end of 2020 and beyond.”

GPCAPT van Leeuwen, who has served in Air Force since 1989, said while a lot of attention had been focused on acquisition, sustainment of the F-35A Air System had largely flown under the radar.

“As with any developmental program, there have been discoveries and issues that have unsurprisingly drawn attention to a program of this scale and cost,” he said.

“The full scope and cost of F-35A sustainment activity won’t be fully quantified until final verification activities have been completed and all modelling data and assumptions are qualified. I see that ­– along with integration of the F-35A Air System (more than just the platform) into ACG – as the main challenges for ACSPO. I’d expect as we exercise the F-35A in Australia in the lead-up to IOC, the level of uncertainty will decrease as the support system matures.”

GPCAPT van Leeuwen said members of ACSPO would work closely with staff in the JSF Division and Air Force – ACG and the Air Combat Transition Office – moving forward.

“These relationships are critical to the success of the F-35A capability,” he said.

“There is heavy reliance on all elements across the enterprise in terms of roles and responsibilities as we deliver, introduce and sustain this highly potent fifth-generation capability for our warfighters.

“With the imminent arrival of the F-35A, we should all be very proud to be part of arguably the best equipped, most skilled and capable Air Force in the world.”

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