Australian industry stands to benefit from the US Department of Defense’s assignment of the first component repair responsibilities outside the continental US for the F-35 Lightning II.
From 2021 to 2025, three of the first 65 components have been assigned to Australia to undertake repairs on a global basis for all F-35s around the world, with the UK assigned 48 components and the Netherlands assigned 14.
Then from 2025 onwards, Australia has been handed responsibility for 64 of these 65 components in the Pacific region, leaving a single component assigned to South Korea for repair regionally.
Although contracts are yet to be finalised, this initial work is estimated to be worth between $80 million and $100 million to Australia, according to Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne, who described the announcement as “a major win for the nation’s defence industry”.
BAE Systems Australia will be the lead provider of global sustainment services for life support components, and will play a leading role in regional sustainment work across avionics and digital mission systems and electrical system components, the company stated.
BAE Systems’ services will be delivered in Australia with teaming partners GE Aviation, Martin-Baker Australia, Northrop Grumman Australia and Rockwell Collins Australia.
The assignments of maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade (MRO&U) capability for the first 65 of 774 components in total were based on data compiled and analysed by the F-35 Joint Program Office that was collected from partners – of which Australia is one – Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program customers and industry, the US Department of Defense stated.
These initial regional MRO&U assignments supporting near-term component repair requirements are set to be reviewed and updated as the program’s needs dictate. The assignment of repair responsibilities for the remaining 709 parts is expected to occur over the next two to three years.
“As part of the F-35 global sustainment strategy, participating nations were provided with requirements outlining global repair needs for the F-35 component workload,” the US Department of Defense statement read.
“Each country was afforded the opportunity to work with their industrial base to provide the F-35 enterprise work over and above their own F-35 needs. Regional considerations such as forward basing, aircraft phasing and transportation also contributed to initial assignment decisions.”
Demand for repairs from 2021 to 2025 is anticipated to be satisfied for each component by a single repair source globally, the US Department of Defense stated, but eventually demand will increase to a point where this will not be enough, therefore the program is establishing regional repair capabilities in Europe and the Pacific.
“This is the first of many opportunities we will have to assign F-35 global sustainment solutions for component repair work,” said Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, program executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office.
“As international F-35 deliveries increase and global operations expand, support provided by our international F-35 users becomes increasingly more important. We are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside these nations on a daily basis; this close teamwork enables the US Defense Department to make well-informed, best-value decisions to shape the F-35 global sustainment posture for decades to come.”
And there are further opportunities available to Australian industry in the program, with two requests for information recently issued to Australian companies for non-air vehicle deeper-level repair components and regional warehousing, Minister Pyne stated.
“This announcement today represents just eight per cent of the total sustainment work that the US government will allocate over the next few years,” the Defence Industry Minister said.
“It also comes after my recent trip to Washington, where I advocated on behalf of Australian defence industry for this important work to be done in Australia. It is clear that Australia will be in prime position to further expand as a regional maintenance hub and build on our local capability.”
MRO&U capabilities for the airframes and engines have already been assigned for Europe and the Pacific. Airframe MRO&U capability was assigned for the Southern Pacific to Australia and BAE Systems, and to Japan and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the Northern Pacific, while the initial heavy engine maintenance capability is being provided in the Asia Pacific region by Australia and Queensland aerospace company TAE.