The Hunter region has already positioned itself as a key player in the defence industry. Now, the BAE Systems Australia’s facility at RAAF Base Williamtown, which serves as the Southern Pacific Regional F-35 Heavy Airframe Depot, will support the F-35 fleet in the region over the next three decades.

The first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was inducted into the BAE maintenance facility on Monday 8 February. The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld and BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan.

The induction of the F-35 in the Hunter-based BAE Systems Australia maintenance depot is part of the next milestone in the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter Program – a development and acquisition program designed to replace a range of existing fighter, strike and ground attack aircraft.

As well as Australia, countries to date acquiring the F-35 include the US, the UK, Canada, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway


The induction not only demonstrates the world-leading capability of Australia’s local defence industry, but shines the spotlight on the Hunter as a region of national significance. It will also create many new jobs and opportunities for Australian businesses and drive investment in the Hunter and across the country. 

An initial team of 32 F-35 technicians have been recruited at the Williamtown base to maintain and sustain the fleet.  However, the induction is expected to create around 360 new jobs for BAE Systems Australia over the next 10 years and contribute an estimated $70 million to GDP by 2025.

Currently, there are already more than 50 local companies sharing in $2.7 billion worth of contracts as part of the F-35 program.

Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the government’s $270 billion investment in the defence capability is a crucial part of the COVID-19 economic recovery plan, with $65 billion of that figure committed to the Joint Strike Fighter Program. 

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price added that the program had helped the local community withstand the economic impact of the pandemic. This includes supporting job losses resulting from Jetstar’s maintenance facility’s shutdown in Newcastle in 2020, with BAE recently hiring 25 former Jetstar employees.

CEO Gabby Costigan, says the prime is privileged to contribute to the program. They look forward to delivering a critical maintenance capability and continuing to partner with the RAAF, the Department of Defence, Lockheed Martin and regional defence industry to support the global F-35 program.