LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz --
The Royal Australian Air Force launched two F-35A Lightning II’s Dec. 3, starting the multi-day journey to a historic arrival in Australia.
The two jets, along with a KC-30A, C-17 and approximately 40 airmen, will accompany the fighters on the more than 10,000 mile journey to RAAF base Amberley, with brief stops in Hawaii and Guam.
Scheduled to land at RAAF base Williamstown, New South Wales Dec. 10, the F-35s, the pilots and airmen will be welcomed home with a colossal ceremony.
“All five of us pilots are sharing the flying back to Australia,” said Darren Clare, No. 3 Squadron Wing Commander. “However, Squadron Leader Edwin Borrman, F-35 pilot, will be on my wing when we arrive in Williamtown. It will be fantastic to get these jets back in Australia, to start flying and maintaining them in our home environment.”
The Australian government committed to purchasing the F-35A more than 16 years ago. They are scheduled to receive all 72 of their new war-fighting machines by 2024.
Though several years have gone by since the initial commitment to buy the jets, the RAAF airmen have been prepping to leave Luke for the last two months.
RAAF Flight Sgt. Damian Gardiner, No. 3 Squadron, said over the past months, once the required routine maintenance was completed on the jets, the airmen have been using their time to pack equipment and participate in final training.
As the RAAF prepares for the transition of four squadrons into F-35A squadrons at Williamtown, No. 3 Squadron and pilots within the 61st Fighter Squadron will continue to train here at Luke for years to come.