Hunter Region’s future as the Indo-Pacific hub for sustainment of F-35 Lightning II aircraft has been secured after the Australian government doubled its initial investment with BAE Systems Australia.
FILE PHOTO: One of the first two Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning Joint Strike Fighters flies overhead RAAF Base Williamtown on delivery day (10 December 2018). Photo by Brian Hartigan.
Late last year (2023), the Commonwealth signed stage two of a facility services deed with BAE Systems Australia worth $110 million, which is in addition to its initial first stage commitment of $100 million announced last year.
The funding boost will enable BAE Systems Australia to build seven more maintenance bays to increase overall capacity to 13 bays to help service the growing F-35 fleet in the Indo-Pacific.
This means Newcastle Airport will be equipped to service Australia’s F-35A Lightning II fleet and could potentially be used by other nations to sustain and service a global F-35 fleet that’s expected to reach more than 3000 aircraft.
Sixty-three of Australia’s 72 F-35A Lightning II aircraft have been accepted by the Royal Australian Air Force to date.
All 72 of Australia’s F-35A aircraft, based in RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, will be sustained and upgraded at the Hunter facility.
Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said this contract extension more than doubled Australia’s initial investment in the F-35 sustainment hub at Williamtown and underscored the government’s commitment to growing Australia’s defence industry.
“This will ensures the Hunter Valley’s future as a hub for the sustainment of Australian aircraft, and potentially from other nations,” Mr Conroy said.
“Australian defence industry is already a vital contributor of maintenance and sustainment services for the global F-35 fleet, which is expected to reach more than 3000 aircraft.
“Establishing the Hunter as an Indo-Pacific hub for F-35 repair and maintenance is a testament to the high level of skills and knowledge among our defence industry workforce.”