Australia, Japan to provide F-35 heavy maintenance in Asia-Pacific

The Pentagon has chosen Australia and Japan as F-35 heavy maintenance hubs for the Asia-Pacific region. Both countries will conduct work on the airframe, while Australia will host the initial engine depot.

20th Dec 2014


Australia, Japan to provide F-35 heavy maintenance in Asia-Pacific


The Pentagon has chosen Australia and Japan as F-35 heavy maintenance hubs for the Asia-Pacific region. Both countries will conduct work on the airframe, while Australia will host the initial engine depot. Both countries' facilities are expected to be operational by 2018, and Japan will likely augment Australia's engine work 3-5 years later. Source: Lockheed Martin
Key Points

Both Australia and Japan will conduct heavy maintenance on F-35 airframes, while F135 engine heavy maintenance will initially be provided by Australia
The facilities are expected to be operational by 2018

The US Department of Defense has assigned maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) responsibilities for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter airframe and engine in the Asia-Pacific region to Australia and Japan, US officials announced on 17 December.

"This is another example of the continuing expansion of global sustainment opportunities for the international F-35 community," said Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, the Pentagon's F-35 programme manager. He has said he expects "hundreds of billions of dollars" worth of F-35 work worldwide over the next five decades or so.

The decision comes just shy of a week following Lt Gen Bogdan's announcement that Italy and Turkey will provide initial MRO airframe and engine maintenance capability in Europe.

In the Pacific region, initial F-35 airframe MRO capability be split between two partners, with Japan proving capability for the Northern Pacific and Australia for the Southern Pacific. Both capabilities will be in place by early 2018, the Pentagon said in a press statement. For heavy maintenance of the Pratt & Whitney (P & W) F135 engine, the initial capability will be provided by Australia by early 2018. Japan is expected to begin providing additional capability 3-5 years later, according to the Pentagon.

As in Europe, other Asian F-35 operators will have the opportunity to compete for additional maintenance deals in the future. Other Asian F-35 operators will likely include South Korea, which agreed in March 2014 to purchase 40 F-35s, and Singapore, which is a security co-operation participant in the programme.
COMMENT

Both Australia and Japan this year outlined plans for F-35 heavy maintenance depots, so the choice of Asia-Pacific MROs comes as no surprise. In July Australian defence minister David Johnston stated his government's plan to set up a regional F-35 MRO centre will strengthen defence relations between Australia and the United States, enhance the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF's) capability to operate the F-35, and provide opportunities for Australia's aerospace and defence industrial base. A development partner in the F-35 programme, Australia is committed to purchasing 72 F-35 aircraft, after announcing a second tranche of 58 aircraft in April. All of the RAAF's F-35s are expected to be operational by 2023.

Meanwhile, Japan's Ministry of Defence told IHS Jane's in April that it is drawing up a plan to support the development of an MRO facility in collaboration with the United States, as well as regional procurers of the aircraft. Tokyo ordered four F-35s in 2011 and has plans to locally manufacture a further 38 aircraft. In 2013 Lockheed Martin and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) signed a contract to build a final assembly and check-out (FACO) facility for Japan's F-35s. The Japanese FACO plant is being established at MHI's Nagoya Aerospace Systems Works Komaki Minami Plant in Aichi Prefecture, which was used to build F-2 multirole fighter aircraft, developed in the 1990s in conjunction with Lockheed Martin.

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