A further three Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35A Lightning IIs have been delivered. They arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales, on November 20.
The aircraft comprised A35-042 (with 77 Squadron tail markings), A35-044 (2 Operational Conversion Unit [OCU] markings) and A35-045 (also 2 OCU markings). Under Exercise Lightning Ferry 21-4 they were flown to Williamtown from Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, via Hickam AFB, Hawaii, to join the 81 Wing fleet.
The delivery flight was carried out by 77 Squadron, RAAF. Before the ferry flight, the Squadron had participated with the aircraft in Exercise Lightning Spear 2021 at Eglin between November 1-5. The latest arrivals bring the current RAAF fleet to 44 out of planned total of 72 aircraft. These were the final RAAF deliveries for 2021.
Commanding Officer of 77 Squadron Wing Commander Tim Ireland said it was an important step for the squadron's growth after re-equipping with F 35A aircraft this year. "Our focus in 2021 has been to stand-up an F-35A combat ready team. The additional aircraft will help us generate a ready force able to integrate into a high-end all domain fight." Wing Commander Ireland said Lightning Spear was an operational test activity for No 81 Wing intended to verify weapons integration. "The consecutive activities of Lightning Spear and Lightning Ferry demonstrates No. 77 Squadron's agility and maturity at operating with our latest F-35A capability," he said.
As of the end of 2020, 30 RAAF F-35A deliveries had been completed. A further 14 have followed during 2021. The first three of the year arrived at Williamtown on February 11, while four more followed on May 6. A single aircraft arrived on September 4 and another three on September 14. The final three deliveries of the year on November 20 topped up the fleet to the 44 now in service.