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The strong partnership behind the F-35 program

Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson became the first ever RAAF pilot to fly the F-35A. "

There are a number of reasons why aerophiles should be excited about the F-35, from the global scale of its construction and deployment to its superior capabilities that make it one of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world.

With strong participation from local industry members and a purchase commitment from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Australia is a key player in the worldwide F-35 program. Officials note that this is a strong indication that, with firm cooperation, government and the private sector can effectively deliver on significant advances in military technology.

An effective coalition

The Australia Defence Force's (ADF) decision to acquire the F-35 marks a partnership with Lockheed Martin that has remained strong for over half a century, but many other stakeholders make up the network of support behind the advanced fighter's production.

"There is no other program that better demonstrates the value of partnership between Defence and industry...than the F-35 program."

Speaking at the 2016 Defence and Industry Conference on June 15 in Canberra, Kim Gillis - deputy secretary capability acquisition and sustainment group - praised the teamwork going into the F-35.

"I believe there is no other program that better demonstrates the value of partnership between Defence and industry to build capability than the F-35 program," said Mr. Gillis.

The scope of that partnership is massive, as Lockheed Martin notes that all F-35s will contain Australian-made components supplied by at least 15 local organisations - including Marand, Levett Engineering, BAE Systems Australia and Quickstep, among many others.

The Department of Defence notes that, as of December 2015, US$554.5 million worth of contract work has been awarded to Australian companies. 

Why the F-35?

The RAAF has chosen the F-35 A Lightening II as the replacement for the current fleet of F/A-18A/B Hornets, with 72 aircraft to be in operation at RRAF Bases Tindal and Williamtown. By 2023, all of these aircraft are expected to be fully operational - with the first being delivered by 2018.

With advanced manoeuvrability, stealth, sensing and communications capabilities, the F-35 will be six to eight times more effective than current fighters in surveillance, air-to-ground and air-to-air operations.

The F-35 Lightning II has a wide array of features, unmatched by other aircraft.The F-35 Lightning II has a wide array of features, unmatched by other aircraft.

The F-35's impressive features include the ability to employ a diverse array of weapons systems designed for targets on the ground and in the air, a low-profile design with fuel and weapons systems incorporated inside the aircraft, and the ability to maintain stealth while flying at supersonic speeds.

Taken together, these factors contribute to the widespread demand for the F-35 from countries around the globe.

What role will Australia play in the future?

As production of the F-35 continues, stakeholders in Australian industry will be important contributors far into the future.

"By 2023, the value of the Australian industrial sector's participation in the program will total US$2 billion."

With Australian-made supplies scheduled to be used in each of the over 3,000 F-35s that will be sold to nine countries, the Department of Defence projects that, by 2023, the value of the Australian industrial sector's participation in the program will total US$2 billion.

Australia will also play a key role in providing support for other nations' F-35 operations.

"As a key F-35 partner and the only partner permanently located in the Asia Pacific region, Australia has the opportunity to strengthen the F-35 Global Support System and increase affordability and availability for global F-35 customer's world wide," Mr. Gillis said.

"Australian industry is central to an effective, affordable and sustainable Defence capability and we appreciate their ongoing commitment to delivering not only the F-35 program but across the broad spectrum of Defence projects." 

Interconnect Systems has a comprehensive background in aerospace and defence engineering, being an industry leader for more than 20 years. It provides electrical interconnect products and solutions, including cable and wire harness manufacture. For more information on the best backshells and cable harness solutions, contact Interconnect Systems today on 1800 812 214 FREE.

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