Despite it being a Public Holiday and in the middle of Defence’s Christmas block-stand-down period, Australia’s F-35A Lightning II fleet officially achieved Initial Operational Capability today.
FILE PHOTO: F-35 009 at RAAF Base Williamtown. Photo by Brian Hartigan.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the fifth-generation F-35A, along with the F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, were key to Australia’s 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,” Minister Reynolds said.
“I would like to thank everyone [who] has worked so hard to get us to this point – to have accomplished all the required testing and materiel delivery is remarkable.
“The Australian Defence Force now has an F-35A squadron ready to conduct technologically advanced strike and air-combat roles, and another squadron dedicated to providing world-class training here in Australia.
“While 2020 presented significant challenges to all of us, and travel restrictions made it difficult to ferry our aircraft to Australia, the huge efforts of Defence, industry and our partners in the United States made today’s achievement possible.”
Australia currently has a fleet of 33 F-35As, and RAAF crews have surpassed more than 8780 flight hours to date, with more than 45 pilots and 600 maintainers trained to support the fleet.
Minister Reynolds gave no explanation about the unusual timing of today’s achievement.
However, while she is, at weird times like this, happy to tell us good news about F-35, she has at all times failed to inform the Australian public about the current status of our ‘critical’ Super Hornet fleet, which was grounded following a double-ejection incident at Amberley earlier this month.
Also, unfortunately, while she did give the media a ‘helpful’ hyperlink to F-35 photos to help them illustrate her announcement, the vast majority of the photos presented on the linked page were not F-35s.