With the F-35A display a major showcase at this year’s Australian International Airshow at Avalon, members of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Division were on hand to meet thousands of visitors who passed through exhibition hall 3 and the F-35 expo tent to chat about Air Force’s new fighter capability.
At the beginning of the airshow, Head JSF Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Leigh Gordon and Commander Air Combat Group (ACG) Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Mike Kitcher briefed about 150 journalists, industry professionals and Defence personnel about the status of the Australian F-35A capability and industry participation in the global F-35 Program.
AIRCDRE Kitcher said ACG was now focused on the F-35A Verification and Validation (V&V) program.
“We are testing the aircraft in Australia’s unique operating environment to ensure everything works in the lead up to Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in December 2020,” AIRCDRE Kitcher said.
“Our first two jets at RAAF Base Williamtown are going well – they are flying five-to-six sorties a week, primarily for aircrew training. We’ll add another two aircraft to that fleet in early April, and we’ll have another four by the end of this year. So that will be eight F-35A aircraft operating at Williamtown.”
He said these Williamtown-based aircraft were complemented by the eight currently operating at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
“We have about 10 students and instructors based at the 61st Fighter Squadron, US Air Force, some of whom also occupy executive positions,” he said. “We’ll add another two Australian jets to that squadron shortly, so they’ll have their full complement of 10 by the middle of 2019.”
AIRCDRE Kitcher is also focused on implementing a robust F-35A training capability in Australia and said that was a critical part of the V&V program.
“No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU), which is our current Classic Hornet training unit, does its final Classic Hornet operational conversion in the last six months of this year and then ceases Classic Hornet operations,” he said.
“In 2020, 2OCU will convert to the F-35A and will also commence technician and aircrew training in earnest. We’ve actually started our first F-35A technical training at 2OCU. Next month we start our first aircrew training – for No. 3 Squadron in the 2OCU building. They’ll be experienced aircrew who have significant time on the Classic or Super Hornets and they’ll be our Australian training trial.
“Training will ramp up between now and the end of 2020. In January 2021, we should have our first young men and women from No. 76 Squadron, straight off the Hawk 127, who will be trained on the F-35A in Australia. That is a key part of our IOC capability – to be able to train ab initio technicians and aircrew on the F-35A locally. From my perspective that’s by far the most important part of our IOC capability.” (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full statement, on the Australian CASG website. http://www.defence.gov.au/casg/NewsMedia/News/new_fighter_capability for details.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We have reproduced the statement above as issued, including its omissions and questionable statements.
Rather than publish a line-by-line fact check, we refer readers to the latest report on the status of the F-35 program by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a highly respected non-partisan watchdog based in Washington, D.C.)