RAAF Declares Initial Operational Capability For Australia’s F-35A Lightning II Jets

Head-on view of an F-35A Lightning II flying off Newcastle, NSW. (Image credit: RAAF)

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35A fleet has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC).

Australian Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon. Linda Reynolds, CSC, and Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price MP, declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for Australia’s F-35As on Dec. 28, 2020. With the IOC, the RAAF Lightnings can be deployed operationally, joining the other services all around the world that have already achieved the capability: U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Italian Air Force, Israeli Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Royal Air Force, Royal Norwegian Air Force and Japan Self-Defense Air Force.

Australia currently operates a fleet of 33 F-35As, and RAAF crews have surpassed more than 8,780 flight hours to date, with more than 45 pilots and 600 maintainers supporting the fleet. The service should procure 72 aircraft to replace to replace the “Legacy” F/A-18A/B Hornet jets and complement the F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler Electronic Attack aircraft. The 5th generation aircraft should equip three squadrons, two at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales, and at RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territory. RAAF plans to achieve FOC (Final Operational Capability) by 2024.

Australia’s first two locally-based F-35A fighter aircraft arrived on home soil at RAAF Base Williamtown (accompanied by 4 F/A-18 Hornets), on Dec. 10, 2018.

Since Dec. 18, 2014, when the first Australian F-35A Lightning jet arrived at Luke Air Force Base, a certain number of Aussie F-35s have been deployed to the U.S. and operated by the 61st Fighter Squadron “Top Dogs” of the 56th Fighter Wing, as part of the multinational academic training center, under a pooling arrangement between the U.S., AustraliaNorway and Italy, which share IPs and aircraft to train new pilots and instructors within the same standardized framework.

Those “Kanagaroo F-35s” were expected to return home by the end of 2020, although it’s not clear whether they have already left Luke or not.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.