Australia’s defence industry will deliver an extra $140 million in maintenance and supply-chain support for the Royal Australian Air Force’s fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II fighter. Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said Australia’s participation in the global F-35 program continued to deliver significant benefits to the Hunter region and the broader national economy. Price said the government had increased funding to the F-35A Industry Support Program by $60 million. The government has also signed an $80 million, five-year contract with BAE Systems Australia for the ongoing support of Australian F-35A operations.

“This contract with BAE will establish sovereign maintenance and supply-chain support to the Royal Australian Air Force F-35A fleet located at RAAF Bases Williamtown in the Hunter region, and Tindal in the Northern Territory,” Price said. “It will also result in the employment of 46 BAE Systems Australia staff in the Hunter region who will provide direct, on-the-ground support to the Royal Australian Air Force fleet.”

Price said the government was determined to give more small and medium businesses the opportunity to contribute to the F-35 Program. “The $60 million increase in funding for the Joint Strike Fighter Industry Support Program will allow Australian companies to develop new and improved capabilities to strengthen their chances of securing contracts in the global F-35 Program,” Price said.

Australian businesses looking to access this funding are encouraged to review the Joint Strike Fighter Industry Support Program Guidelines and explore opportunities to contribute to this critically important defence capability. Defence will acquire 72 F-35A Lighting II aircraft to replace the Classic Hornet fleet. To date, 45 jets have been accepted by Australia and the full fleet is on track to be delivered by the end of 2023.

BAE Systems Australia said it welcomed the announcement of a new F-35 Air Vehicle Support Services (AVSS) contract to establish sovereign maintenance and supply-chain support for the Australian fleet at RAAF Bases Williamtown in New South Wales and Tindal in the Northern Territory. BAE Systems Australia Managing Director, Defence Delivery, Andrew Gresham, said: “We are delighted to build on our contribution to the global F-35 program with this additional support for the RAAF. We will be leveraging our years of experience in fast jet sustainment working side by side with the RAAF to deliver aircraft availability and capability requirements.”

Maintaining and sustaining the global F-35 capability will create around 360 new direct jobs at BAE Systems Australia over the next 10 years and develop a specialist supply chain across Australia of more than 70 SMEs by 2025. The new AVSS contract will employ 46 BAE Systems Australia staff, providing direct, on-the-ground support to RAAF personnel sustaining the F-35. The company will have around 130 people working to support F-35 aircraft maintenance by the end of the year, having also recruited 25 former Jetstar technicians during the downturn in commercial aviation caused by COVID-19.

As a key partner and integral part of the industry team with Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems delivers up to 15 percent of each fifth-generation aircraft globally. This includes the advanced manufacture of the aft fuselage, empennage, and crucial components from our facilities in the UK and Australia, and advanced electronic warfare capability from our US business. Parts of the vertical tail, corrosion prognostics and avionics are manufactured by BAE Systems in South Australia.

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