The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has announced that its first 2 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will begin flight operations this week.
“RAAF Base Williamtown is advising Hunter residents that our two F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft are scheduled to begin flying operations this week (from 21-25 January 2019),” the RAAF said in an advisory.
The two F-35As arrived in Australia on December 10.
According to Commander of Air Combat Group (ACG), Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Michael Kitcher, the two aircraft will begin a phase of operations designed to verify and validate the jet’s capabilities during 2019-2020 in the lead-up to the declaration of the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) at the end of 2020.
“At the end of 2019, Air Combat Group expects to have taken delivery of up to eight aircraft,’’ Air Commodore Kitcher said. “In December 2020, Australia will have up to 33 aircraft, established a sovereign training capability and completed verification and validation of the Australian F-35A capability..
“By the end of 2020 one operational squadron will be proficient in air combat, strike and offensive air support, and ready to deploy in support of Australia’s national interests,” he added.
RAAF said the Australian Government has approved the acquisition of 72 aircraft and the F-35A fleet will comprise of three operational squadrons.