Initial Operational Capability declared for Australia’s Lightning
On 28 December 2020, Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds and Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price, declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for Royal Australia Air Force's (RAAF) Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs.
This making Australia the seventh country to declare IOC for its F-35 fleet. Australia currently has a fleet of 33 F-35As and RAAF crews have surpassed more than 8,780 flight hours to date, with more than 45 pilots and 600 maintainers supporting the fleet.
It was stated that with every F-35 manufactured containing Australian-made parts, more than 50 Australian companies have benefited from AUD 2.7 billion (USD 2 billion) in contracts for the development, production, and sustainment of the aircraft. The F-35 programme creates more than 2,400 high-tech manufacturing jobs for the Australian industry.
At this moment, with more than 600 aircraft operating from 26 different air bases and ships across the globe, the Lightning II plays a critical role in today’s global security environment. More than 1,200 pilots and 10,000 maintainers have been trained on the aircraft. Besides Australia, eight nations have F-35s operating from their home soil.
It is expected that the RAAF F-35A will have multiple headlines during the 100th Year RAAF festivities in 2021. Although on 31 March 2021, the RAAF will mark 100 years of service to Australia, a large RAAF centenary airshow is planned at Avalon Airport/Geelong (Victoria) from 26 up to and including 28 November 2021.