The controversial F-35A Lightning II — you might have heard of it as the Joint Strike Fighter, or JSF — is finally coming to Australia. It’ll make its Aussie debut at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon in early March, and although they won’t stick around, it’ll be your only chance to see Australia’s next-generation air combat jet until late 2018.
Australia has a full complement of 72 F-35As on order, and the first two airframes — AU-001 and AU-002 — will fly to Victoria for the Airshow on March 3, and will stick around for the event’s flying activities before returning to the US via RAAF Amberley.
The F-35 will also be joined at Avalon by Australia’s first EA-18G Growler, an electronic warfare platform built on the F/A-18 Hornet airframe capable of disrupting enemy radar and communications and designed to work in tandem with the F-35.
$800 million of component development for the F-35 is being completed in Australia, including work on optical sensors for the F-35’s helmet.
Australia won’t get its first F-35s until 2018, with the first full squadron expected to be operational by 2021. The entire complement of 72 will be in service by 2023, replacing the country’s quickly-aging F/A18-A and -B Hornets. Australia operates 71 ‘classic’ Hornets as well as 24 updated F/A-18F Super Hornets, purchased to fill the gap during the wait for F-35s to enter service.