Aussie suppliers optimistic about F-35 program

A number of Australian suppliers, including VDA Aero member Marand, have expressed confidence in the international F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Writing for The Australian, Sam Buckingham-Jones reports that more than 50 companies in Australia are set to be involved in servicing and maintaining the fighters, worth an estimated $17 billion and hundreds of jobs over their intended lifespan.

In early August, Victorian company Marand, an Australian industry leader, manufactured a vertical tail for the third Australian F-35A, making it the first of the Australian aircraft to receive an Australian-made tail.

“Marand is supporting BAE Systems UK in producing vertical tails for the F-35 with more than 25 tails produced here in Australia so far,” Marand chief executive Rohan Stocker said.

During the next six years, 72 F-35A JSFs will be delivered to Australia for the air force, and the first two are expected to arrive late next year.

While Lockheed Martin is contracted to the US government to produce the aircraft, the project is a behemoth of international co-operation and organisation. Britain, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Turkey are also buying some, while Japan, Israel and South Korea are procuring the F-35A through US Foreign Military Sales agreements.

The next eight Australian aircraft are in various stages of production at Lockheed Martin’s Texas factory, with the third nearing production completion.

“The Australian F-35A project is far more than just delivery of 72 aircraft, it’s also about working with air force, industry and across Defence to introduce brand new systems needed to operate the F-35A,” Air Vice-Marshal Leigh Gordon, JSF project head, said.

The F-35 program has so far injected an estimated $1.1bn into Australian businesses over the life of the project.

In mid-August, BAE Systems Australia announced it had won the $300m Asia-Pacific regional warehouse contract.

“The regional warehousing capability will support global F-35 enterprise with the supply of aircraft parts for Australia’s F-35 aircraft and other F-35 user nations operating in the broader Asia-Pacific region,” the company said.

BAE Systems Australia produces complex parts. Some have to be accurate down to 10 microns — the width of a human hair. 

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