The Australian Ministry of Defense has officially added three F-35A aircraft to its fleet, and all fully combat capable – a feat some of the United States’ F-35s have yet to achieve.
“These latest aircraft are fitted with the program’s final software system, which unlocks the aircraft’s full war-fighting potential including weapons, mission systems and flight performance,” Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said Monday.
The Royal Australian Air Force now has five F-35A jets in total. While belonging to Canberra, all five aircraft are stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Maricopa County, Arizona, so Australian pilots can train on the fifth-generation jets.
“Australia is the first international partner to accept jets with Block 3F capability,” Payne said, as cited by Executive Biz.
Australia is not only the first international partner to have F-35s with Block 3F capability — it is also fielding that capability before even the US Navy, the F-35Cs of which are not expected to complete Block 3F testing until late 2018 or early 2019 at the earliest.
The Australian F-35s are slated to arrive Down Under by the end of the year, according to the defense minister, when they will formally integrate with the rest of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Lockheed Martin is supposed to deliver five more F-35s to Canberra before the end of the year. The Australian government has agreed to procure 72 F-35As in total.