The RAAF’s first F-35A engineering officer, SQNLDR Nathan Draper, has been recognised by the US with the awarding of a Meritorious Service Medal for his significant contribution to the establishment and sustainment of the Australian training, maintenance and engineering effort at Luke AFB in Arizona.
Now a member of Air Combat Systems Program Office (ACSPO) sustainment team at RAAF Williamtown, SQNLDR Draper served as the Australian Maintenance Liaison Lead at Luke AFB from 2014 until 2017. Whist at Luke he played a significant role in establishing the initial RAAF and other partner nations F-35 complements including those from Norway and Italy.
“A decision had been made to embed international F-35 program partners as part of operations at Luke AFB,” SQNLDR Draper said in a CASG release. “I knew that as the first partner nation representative I had one chance to make a difference and set the tone and culture for the international team’s contribution.
“I was a little overwhelmed that the efforts I put in were recognised at a program level and that what I did was making a difference on a big playing field,” he added. “A key component of my time at Luke AFB was continually asking questions of our contracted logistics support staff who maintained our jets.”
The RAAF’s first two F-35As are due to arrive in Australia in early to mid-December to conduct a verification and validation period prior to 3SQN’s planned declaration of an initial operational capability (IOC) in 2020.