The first F-35A Lightning II delivered to the RAAF recently logged the milestone of 1,000 flying hours.
The aircraft – A35-001 which is also known as AU-1 by Lockheed Martin and the JSF Program Office (JPO) – achieved the milestone in early June while conducting pilot training with the USAF 61st Fighter Squadron-run international Pilot Training Centre (PTC) at Luke AFB in Arizona.
“It demonstrates the maturity of our F-35A capability and showcases the importance of the international F-35 partnership,” Australia’s Director General Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) AIRCDRE Damien Keddie said in a statement. “A35-001 is one of five Australian aircraft at Luke AFB, with other F-35 partner nations also contributing aircraft to the PTC in a show of global collaboration that has been the cornerstone of the F-35 program since the earliest days.”
A35-001 briefly appeared in Australian skies when it and A35-002 visited for the 2017 Avalon Airshow, but has otherwise been based at Luke AFB since it was delivered to the RAAF in 2014. It and four other jets are scheduled to return to Australia by the end of 2020 when Australia’s commitment of five aircraft, instructor pilots, and maintenance trainers to the PTC is scheduled to end.
“Given A35-001 completed most of its 1,000 flying hours at the PTC, this milestone highlights the contribution Australia has made to the collaborative training environment, with more than 1,000 F-35 pilots now qualified and flying with their respective services,” JSF Branch Project Engineering Manager Timothy Rafferty said. “This demonstrates the critical and ongoing collaboration taking place as we work to ensure all 72 jets are delivered to Australia by the end of 2023 for Final Operating Capability (FOC).”
The RAAF currently has 17 F-35As in service with 3SQN and 2OCU at RAAF Williamtown near Newcastle. Apart from the five jets at the PTC, four more RAAF F-35As have arrived at Luke AFB in recent months and are scheduled to be ferried home in July.
Each F-35A is rated to have an 8,000 flight hour life-of-type, meaning A35-001 has logged 12.5% of its projected service life in about five years of flying. The aircraft received a structural and block upgrade at Hill AFB in Utah in 2018 which took several months.