The unveiling of two new F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft labeled AU-1 and AU-2 at the Lockheed Martin aviation facility in Fort Worth, Texas, marks the beginning of F-35 operations for the Royal Australian air force.
The Australian partnership with the U.S. has grown stronger with the delivery of the F-35s in addition to contributions from numerous countries around the world that aided in the building of this aircraft.
“In this case it takes a community of nations, it takes a community of companies, it takes a community of militaries and departments within the U.S. and around the world, and all of our partners,” said Frank Kendall, Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics undersecretary. “It takes a community of industries to come together. This aircraft is a testimony to our ability to do that.”
Luke Air Force Base is the largest F-16 fighter training base in the world. As more F-35s roll off the assembly line, Luke will also become the largest F-35 fighter training base. It is here that the RAAF pilots will receive their training on the new aircraft with the first F-35s expected in Australia by 2017.
With the RAAF F-35 being identical to the U.S. aircraft, there is a slight difference in the markings and the tail flash. The F-35s are the traditional grey color, but with the serial numbers A35-001 and A35-002 and tail markings for the RAAF’s 2 Operational Conversion Unit.
“It was really great to be able to go and receive this aircraft and to have representatives from Luke there,” said squadron leader Maj. Nathan Draper, 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit participant maintenance liaison officer, RAAF. “We had representatives from Fighter-Country Partnership which was fantastic. It was good to celebrate a pretty big occasion standing shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues and our mates here at Luke AFB.”