Prime Minister, parliamentary colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, Chief of Air Force Leo Davies and Marillyn Hewson from Lockheed Martin. There’s nothing like landing two JSFs in Australia to make a Defence Minister’s day. It is a very, very important step in the development of Australian Air Force capability and the engagement of Australian industry in that process.
This is an acquisition which has been fifteen years in the making. It started in 2002 and it will make a truly game changing difference to Air Force capability.
I want to acknowledge the men and the women of the Australian Defence Force but particularly the RAAF, who have been part of this since day one. The men and women like Wing Commander Andrew Jackson and Squadron Leader David Bell, who had, in my view, the extraordinary honour of flying the F-35s from the United States to Australia for the Avalon Airshow. To have these on display here and to welcome home Andrew and David, who are currently based in the United States, is a great honour.
A lot has been said and written by many people about these aircraft. This is a real opportunity for Australians to see them up close and to really get a good chance to have a look at this capability. They will provide the Air Force with the ability to execute air combat missions which were previously beyond our scope – in fact, not too long ago, previously beyond our imagination.
The F-35A has stealth built into it right from the start. Its fuel tanks, its weapons, its sensors are on the inside of the Aircraft. It can go further, it’s harder to see than a forth generation aircraft which typically externally carries its tanks and its weapons and its sensors. And in addition to stealth, it’s those advanced sensors and data fusion which makes this capability a true fifth generation aircraft. They have an extraordinary ability to share information with other F-35s, with other aircraft, with the rest of the Defence Force, including the Army and the Navy and those of our allies and coalition partners. Put simply, its ability to share information will increase its survivability and the capability of our other assets in the air, on the ground and in the water.
This week we also had the chance to welcome the first Growler into service with Air Force. That provides a dedicated electronic attack option to our strategic capabilities. Together, they are lethal.
Last year we welcomed the P-8 – you can see it here as well – helping to protect our borders in its service. The Royal Australian Air Force is truly becoming a fifth generation Air Force that will form part of a broader and connected Defence Force that is better able to keep out nation secure.
For Australia, importantly, there’s been no change to budget or schedule since the project was approved and we’re on track to deliver this capability and ready to receive our first two F-35A aircraft permanently in Australia at the end of 2018. We’ll be able to declare Initial Operating Capability at the end of 2020. It’s a very significant undertaking by Defence, by the United States, by Lockheed Martin, to bring these aircraft all the way from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona to Avalon, Australia. I want to thank and congratulate everyone that is involved and ladies and gentlemen, enjoy the F-35A.