Aircraft Coating Facility announced for Newcastle Airport

Five F-35A Lightning II aircraft from 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU), lead by Commanding Officer Wing Commander Jordan Sander, conduct a formation flyover of RAAF Base Williamtown to celebrate the graduates of the Operational Conversion Course. Photo: LAC Samuel Miller.

AN Aircraft Coating Facility will be built at Newcastle Airport to maintain the stealth of Australia’s fleet of F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

At Australia’s first dedicated coating facility, a specialised paint will be applied to the aircraft to ensure they are virtually invisible to an adversary’s radar.

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The new facility is being established in partnership with BAE Systems Australia, which is responsible for the maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade activities for Australia’s fleet of 63 F-35A aircraft, which is being expanded to 72.

Establishing the facility will create up to 25 new local ongoing jobs, which will be integral to the larger team of around 360 local workers that already sustain the F-35As at Newcastle Airport.

The design for the coating facility is due to be finalised by the end of this year, with construction expected to start around mid-2024.

It is expected to cost more than $100 million and involve more than 100 local jobs in the construction phase.

To date, only Australian F-35As have undergone maintenance by BAE at Newcastle Airport.

The new coating facility will support the maintenance of other F-35A fleets operating in the Indo-Pacific, transforming Newcastle Airport into a future regional hub.

The sustainment and upgrades at Newcastle over the next 30 years will support up to 750 direct and indirect jobs across Australia.

So far, more than 70 Australian companies have had contracts contributing to the F-35 program.

In addition to BAE Systems Australia, other companies in the Hunter which have contributed to this success are the Nupress Group and Varley Group.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said the announcement of the facility was “a vote of confidence in the Hunter”.

“(It) ensures these world-class aircraft will operate and be sustained from Newcastle Airport for decades to come,” Mr Conroy said.

“The Hunter community can be proud to be playing a vital role in sustaining this critical defence capability not only for Australia, but also for our region.

“Defence industry companies in the Hunter and across Australia are already making a significant contribution to the F-35 program and this will grow in the years ahead.”

A Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft conducts an aerial handling display during the Air Commander Australia, Commander’s Call event held at RAAF Base Williamtown. Photo: SGT Craig Barrett.

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