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Hunter on track to become regional F-35 aircraft sustainment hub

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The Hunter is on track to become an Indo-Pacific hub for sustainment of F-35 Lighting II aircraft, according to Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy.

It comes after the Australian Government doubled its initial investment with BAE Systems Australia.

This means Newcastle Airport will be equipped to service the country’s highly-advanced combat planes.

Other nations could potentially use it to sustain a global F-35 fleet that’s expected to reach more than 3,000 aircraft, too.

A F-35A Lightning ll takes to the sky. Photo: Royal Australian Air Force

The government signed stage two of a facility services deed with BAE Systems Australia last month, worth $110 million, which is in addition to its opening commitment of $100 million announced in 2022.

The funding boost will enable BAE Systems Australia to build seven more maintenance bays to increase overall capacity to 13, to help service the growing F-35 fleet in the Indo-Pacific.

“This contract extension more than doubles our investment in the F-35 sustainment hub at Williamtown and underscores the government’s commitment to the defence industry,” Mr Conroy said.

“Crucially, this deal secures jobs for people across the Hunter and nationally for decades to come.

“It also ensures the Hunter’s future as a hub for the sustainment of Australian aircraft.

“The Albanese government is continuing to invest in Australian industry, with more than 50% of acquisition and sustainment spent in Australia this financial year, a record number.

“The Australian defence sector is already a vital contributor of maintenance and sustainment services for the global F-35 fleet.

“Establishing the Hunter as an Indo-Pacific hub for F-35 repair and upkeep is a testament to the high level of skills and knowledge among our industry workforce.”

The latest announcement follows on from the Australian Government signing its first facility services deed with BAE Systems Australia in November 2022 to build four new F-35 maintenance bays at the company’s South Hangar at Newcastle Airport.

Sixty-three of Australia’s 72 F-35A Lightning II aircraft have been accepted to date.

All 72 of the fleet, based in RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, will be sustained and upgraded at the Hunter facility.

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