The Arrival in Australia of the First Australian F-35s


2017-03-03 The F-35 Lightning was officially launched at the Avalon Airshow on the 3rd of March 2017

According to Australian Defence Magazine:

The first two RAAF F-35A Joint Strike Fighters touched down today at the Avalon International Airshow, having departed earlier in the week from their current attachment to the US 61st Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona.

The arrival marked the fifth generation fighter’s debut in Australia and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Defence Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne were on hand to welcome the aircraft to it’s future country of residence.

The two aircraft (A35-001 and -002) had flown from Luke AFB via Hawaii, Guam and RAAF Base Amberley and had achieved a milestone for the longest overseas delpoyment to date.

They were accompanied during the ferry by a RAAF C-17 Globemaster III carrying associated stores and equipment and a RAAF KC-30A tanker, which supplied over 197,000 lbs of fuel during the 21 air-to-air fuelling cycles.

The airpower package which arrived underscores how the RAAF is changing.  

It is about sustainable reach and the coming of first the C-17 and then the KC-30A to the RAAF provides the deployable support necessary to project the kind of global power which the F-35 force will bring to Australia.

The sustainable reach part of the puzzle has been solved prior to the coming of the fifth generation aircraft to the RAAF.

And the change envisaged with the F-35 entering the fleet is about an overall effort and dynamic.

As former RAAF Chief of Staff, Geoff Brown put it in a discussion with Second Line of Defense after the appearance of the first F-35s in Australia:

“The arrival of the F-35s in Australia is a milestone in the development of the RAAF and the future integrated Australian Defence Force.”

And in a 2016 interview at Williamtown Airbase with the Commander of the RAAF’s Air Combat Group the role of the F-35 within an integrated Australian Defence Froce was highlighted.

“We need to be in the position where our maritime surface combatants are able to receive the information that we’ve got airborne in the RAAF assets. Once they’ve got that, they’re going to actually be trying to be able to do something with it.

That is the second level, namely where they can integrate with the C2 and ISR flowing from our air fleet.

But we need to get to the third level, where they too can provide information and weapons for us in the air domain.

That is how you will turn a kill chain into a kill web. That’s something that we want in our fifth generation integrated force.

And in a fifth generation world, it’s less about who is the trigger shooter but actually making sure that everybody’s contributing effectively to the right decisions made as soon as possible at the lowest possible level.

And that is why I see the F-35 as an information age aircraft.

I’m less concerned about the load outs on the F-35. You can give it another ten weapon stations and you would miss the core point.

What’s actually important is how the F-35 makes other weapon providers or effect providers out there far better and shape faster reaction times.

A lot of people seem stuck in the old mindset of how many weapons we are going to stack on each aircraft.

That’s almost two generations ago.

In some ways, we are going back to the concept of military aviation early in World War I where we are the eyes and ears for the combat force forward operating.”

Clearly, the approach discussed by Air Commodore Roberton meant that his own job was in transition as well.

“In ten years time, my successor in this job will be dealing a lot more with other elements within the ADF , with other government agencies and leveraging information management and decision making.

Shaping and keeping the link or connectivity services dynamic will be a key capability not just focusing on the individual platform.”

But the Australians have not just been waiting for a new platform to arrive; they are working hard on significant cultural change as well.

The Williams Foundation in Australia along with the Australian Air Force, Navy and Army have been leading the way in thinking through the implications of fifth generation warfare across the board.

The RAAF’s Plan Jericho is a foundational relook at the evolution of the RAAF as it becomes the most modern air force in the democratic world.

Second Line of Defense will be returning to Australia this April for the latest Williams Foundation seminar focused on fifth generation warfare.

For the earlier reports sponsored by the Williams Foundation and produced in cooperation with Second Line of Defense see the following:

The video is credited to the Australian Ministry of Defence as well as the photos in the slideshow above. 

F-22s are in Australia training with the RAAF and are featured at the beginning of the slideshow. 

March 3, 2017.