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BAE Systems to build F-35 coating facility at RAAF Williamtown

The Australian government and BAE Systems Australia will establish a new Aircraft Coating Facility (ACF) at the company’s Williamtown Aerospace Precinct, near Newcastle in Australia. This will see a specialised paint applied to the aircraft to ensure they are virtually invisible to an adversary’s radar.

Defence has declined to comment on whether or not the new ACF would include a Signature Measurement Facility similar to the one at the Lockheed Martin facility in Ft Worth where the F-35A is made. The Signature Measurement Facility is used to ensure the low-observability measures applied to each aircraft work correctly.

To date, only Australian F-35As have undergone maintenance by BAE Systems Australia at Williamtown. The new coating facility will support the maintenance of other F-35A fleets operating in the Indo-Pacific, transforming the base into a future regional hub.

“Importantly, this stealth coating facility will not just be important to Australia’s fleet of F-35s,” said Minister for defence Industry Pat Conroy. “It will support F-35s in the region, whether it’s visiting US Marine aircraft, it could be F-35s from Singapore or broader in the Indo-Pacific. So, this is all about advancing the most advanced capability in the world, building a facility well in excess of $100 million, creating 25 well-paid secure jobs, adding to the 360 jobs already here working on maintaining and upgrading the F-35.”

The new coating facility is due to be finalised by the end of this year, with construction expected to start around mid-2024. It is part of a broader expansion of the base to accommodate future sustainment for the RAAF fleet of F-35 aircraft. There are currently 63 F-35A aircraft in the RAAF fleet, with 72 in the planned programme of record.

New maintenance bays and the Asia Pacific Regional Warehouse have already been activated at the site and another 13 bays will be added, as well as the Aircraft Coating Facility, funded by the Commonwealth. The sustainment and upgrades at Williamtown over the next 30 years will support up to 750 direct and indirect jobs across Australia, said Conroy.

BAE Systems partners with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to manufacture, integrate and sustain the F-35. In addition to supporting operational level maintenance for the RAAF, BAE Systems is also involved in maintenance, warehousing and repair of components for the Asia Pacific fleet of F-35s.

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