Page 96 - Australian Defence Magazine Dec 2018 - Jan 2019
P. 96

RAAF on a solid
transition track
Triton will become an important part of the ADF orbat.
The 12 months since ADM last reviewed Defence’s Air programs has seen significant progress towards respective major milestones and this tempo looks set to continue throughout 2019.
ARGUABLY the major event of 2018 was the arrival of the first two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) on December 10, as this issue of ADM went to press. The aircraft are the first of at least 72 to be permanently based in Australia and their arrival represents a major step towards Initial Operational Capability (IOC) at the end of 2020.
The first two aircraft are the 9th and 10th aircraft to be accepted under Defence’s Project Air 6000 Phase 2A and 2B and will be used for a two-year period of validation and verification (V&V) testing, which will begin in early 2019 and lead up to IOC.
The eight jets previously delivered will remain at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona
in the interim and will continue to sup- port international JSF Training, as part of the US Air Force’s JSF International Pilot Training Centre.
Further deliveries to Australia will occur throughout 2019 as the first operational RAAF fighter squadron (3 Sqn) begins to work up on the 5th generation fighter.
In the meantime, infrastructure and train- ing aids are now in place at Williamtown to support the arrival of the first aircraft, which will also be the first to be hosted on Austra- lia’s sovereign version of the F-35A’s Auto- nomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).
The first two aircraft will also be on dis- play at the 2019 Australian International Airshow at Avalon and an in-depth analysis of Australia’s F-35 program will appear in the February issue of ADM.
Air 7000
Australia is acquiring both manned and un- manned maritime surveillance capabilities under two major phases of the overarching Air 7000 program and both notched up sig- nificant milestones during the course of 2018.
On June 26, then-Prime Minister Mal- colm Turnbull announced that six Northrop
Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned mari- time surveillance aircraft will be acquired under Project Air 7000 Phase 1B.
Initial investment in the program is $1.4 billion with the total cost – including whole of life sustainment costs – estimated to be $6.9 billion.
The announcement represents the Gate 2 milestone in the acquisition phase of the project and confirms Australia’s intention to purchase the Triton capability, which had earlier been flagged in the 2016 White Paper. The first aircraft will be delivered in 2023 and the last in 2025 and they will be based at RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Tin- dal, with other forward-deployed locations around the north and north-west of Austra- lia yet to be announced.
Deliveries of the manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime surveil- lance platform under Phase 2B of Air 7000 continued during 2018 and the eighth of the original 12 aircraft on order was being prepared by delivery as ADM went to press.
The Poseidon achieved IOC in March, five months ahead of the original schedule and Final Operational Capability (FOC) is
96 | December 2018 – January 2019 |

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