Australia now fields almost 60 F-35As in-country

A further five Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)-operated Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs have arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales, bringing the total number in operational service to 59 aircraft out of 72 on order.

The arrival of this latest batch of fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters at Williamtown was announced by the Australian air arm on December 12. These five new F-35As (serials A35-055; A35-056; A35-057; A35-058 and A35-059) were accepted by the base’s resident No 81 Wing – a part of the RAAF’s Air Combat Group. The aircraft were flown to Australia from the continental US as part of Exercise Lightning Ferry 22-4, which was carried out from December 10-12 and was the fourth and final such delivery event to take place in 2022.

One of Australia's latest F-35A Lightning IIs (serial A35-058) lands at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales, after completing its delivery flight from the continental US on December 12, 2022.
One of Australia's latest F-35A Lightning IIs (serial A35-058) lands at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales, after completing its delivery flight from the continental US on December 12, 2022. Australian Department of Defence/Cpl Craig Barrett

Prior to leaving the US, the new RAAF F-35As participated in two different exercises at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, respectively. The first was Exercise Lightning Spear 2022 – a live-fire aerial lethality operational test event focused on evaluating the air-to-air missile capabilities of the F-35A – at Eglin AFB, while the second was the Hawaii Air National Guard-hosted Exercise Pacific Edge – a training event for fourth- and fifth-generation fighters and command-and-control aircraft – at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Upon completing these exercises, the Australian F-35As continued on their delivery to RAAF Base Williamtown. The trans-Pacific flight was supported by an Airbus KC-30A (A330-203MRTT) multi-role tanker transport from the RAAF’s No 33 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland.

The RAAF anticipates that it will have received its entire complement of 72 F-35As by the end of 2023, which will be employed by three operational units – Nos 3, 75 and 77 Squadrons – and No 2 Operational Conversion Unit. The nation’s Lightning II fleet will be operated from RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal in Australia’s Northern Territory.