Thank you to the Worimi (Wo-rim-i) Indigenous representatives for the traditional welcoming ceremony.
I would like to acknowledge the hard work and attendance of Defence staff, in particular the members associated with planning the project:
Brigadier Noel Beutel, Director General Capital Facilities and Infrastructure, representing Defence Support and Reform Group; Air Commodore Steven Roberton, Commander Air Combat Group and Senior Australian Defence Force Officer for the base representing base participation in the process; and Air Commodore Terry Saunder, Director General Joint Strike Fighter Acquisition and Sustainment, representing the Defence Materiel Organisation project team.
I would also like to welcome contractor staff from Lend Lease Building and Coffey.
I am pleased to be here today for this significant milestone for the new F-35A Lightning II - Joint Strike Fighter facilities works.
The Construction of the New Air Combat Capability Facilities at RAAF Base Williamtown will support the introduction, operation and deployment of the F-35A.
Australia has committed to the acquisition of 72 F-35A aircraft, which will provide aircrew with a fifth generation aircraft at the forefront of air combat technology.
Turning the first sod today marks the commencement of an almost $1.5 billion project that will provide facilities for the aircraft at ten bases across the country, including here at RAAF Base Williamtown.
Of this, the RAAF Base Williamtown facilities are expected to bring about $950 million worth of work into the Newcastle region.
Over the next seven years, the project will provide welcome investment opportunities that will deliver direct and indirect economic benefits, particularly in the Newcastle region, with the potential for local-subcontractors to be part of the construction works.
Facilities will also be constructed at:
• RAAF Base Tindal near Katherine in the Northern Territory;
• RAAF Bases Townsville and Scherger in Queensland;
• RAAF Base Darwin in the Northern Territory;
• RAAF Bases Curtin, Learmonth and Pearce in Western Australia;
• RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia; and,
• Defence Establishment Myambat in NSW.
The commencement of these works is the culmination of five years of planning by Defence.
This milestone would not be possible without the cooperation and focused effort of Air Force and the wider Defence project team.
With the first F-35A to arrive in Australia in 2018, these facilities are crucial to realise an operational Joint Strike Fighter capability in 2020.
This project will result in major investment in the Defence Estate, especially at RAAF Bases Williamtown and Tindal, which will be critical in supporting the introduction and sustainment of the new F-35A capability.
The introduction of the F-35A aircraft to RAAF Base Williamtown assures its position as our premier fighter training base for Australia’s air combat pilots.
Australia’s F-35 Program continues to mature, with our first F-35A pilot recently completing his F-35A aircraft training.
It has been a pleasure to come to RAAF Base Williamtown today to mark the commencement of F-35A works on what will be a very significant and critical Defence infrastructure project.