Newcastle Airport to house new coating facility for F-35A fighter jets

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Image credit: Australian Air Force

The Australian Government has announced its plan to establish an Aircraft Coating Facility at Newcastle Airport dedicated to the maintenance of Australia’s fleet of F-35A Lightning II aircraft. 

Established in partnership with BAE Systems Australia, the first-of-its-kind dedicated coating facility will handle the maintenance repair, overhaul, and upgrade activities for Australia’s fleet of 63 F-35A, a figure that is currently being expanded to 72. 

The new facility is expected to create up to 25 new local ongoing jobs, adding to the larger team of around 360 local workers that already sustain the F-35As at Newcastle Airport. 

The facility will use specialised paint to ensure aircraft are virtually invisible to an adversary’s radar, a vital element for Australia’s air combat capability, the Department of Defence said in a media release

The design for the upcoming facility is set to be finalised by the end of 2023, with construction expected to commence around mid-2024. The project is expected to cost over $100 million and involve over 100 workers for the construction phase. 

Historically, only Australian F-35As have undergone maintenance conducted by BAE Systems at Newcastle Airport. 

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

Defence said the sustainment and upgrades at Newcastle scheduled for the next 30 years will support up to 750 direct and indirect jobs across Australia. 

To date, more than 70 Australian companies have played active contributing roles to the F-35 program

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said the new coating facility underway is a vote of confidence in the Hunter Region to ensure that the cutting-edge aircraft will operate and be sustained from Newcastle Aiport for decades to come. 

“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,” Conroy said. “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.”