This paper examines Australia’s involvement in the Joint Strike Fighter program and provide a succinct status update.
The F-35 Lightning II, commonly known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), is a so-called fifth generation multi-role aircraft designed with both fighter (air-to-air) and strike (air-to-ground) capabilities. The single seat aircraft is developed to fly at supersonic speeds for short periods of time. As a fifth generation aircraft it is expected to feature more advanced stealth technology than most other military aircraft and greatly improve pilot situational awareness through the use of more advanced radar and avionics. The technology is intended to give the pilot 360 degree tracking and targeting— in other words, the pilot does not have to see, nor does the aircraft have to be pointed at, a target in order to engage it.
Three variations of JSF aircraft are being developed by prime contractor Lockheed Martin: F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL), F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) and the F-35C carrier based type. These variants aim to allow the United States (US) Government to supply its Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy with a strike aircraft suitable for each service, based on a common airframe and using as much shared technology as possible. Australia intends to purchase the F-35A CTOL variant to replace the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) F/A-18A/B Hornet aircraft.
What follows is an overview of the development of the project and some commentary on its successes and failures. This Background Note is necessarily selective as the JSF program is a very complex topic. Therefore the purpose of this publication is to highlight Australia’s involvement in the program and provide a succinct status update.