The Pentagon’s F-35 program announced plans for the program’s maintenance and sustainment of the aircraft in the Asia Pacific -- identifying Japan and Australia as locations for aircraft and engine work.
The regional alignments, which will result in billions of dollars of work over the life of the aircraft, are part of what the Defense Department’s calls regional Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade, or MRO&U, for F-35 aircraft and engines.
Aircraft maintenance in the Pacific is now slated to take place in Japan for the Northern Pacific and in Australia in the Southern Pacific to begin by early 2018, said Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35 Program Executive Officer.
For heavy F-35 engine maintenance, the initial capability will be provided by Australia by early 2018, with Japan providing additional capability at least 3-5 years later, he added.
The maintenance and sustainment work will examine and repair engines, update weapons systems as new technology emerges, replace components as needed and, in some cases, perform heavy repair work on the F-35 throughout the expected service life of the aircraft, Bogdan explained.
Overall, the nine countries participating in the F-35 program are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
Israel, Japan and the Republic of Korea are also F-35 program participants through a Foreign Military Sales program.
The decision on basing these maintenance and sustainment capabilities in Japan and Australia followed careful evaluation of participating nations, Bogdan explained. Participating nations were provided with requirements for Regional MRO&U, or "heavy maintenance" needs for both F-35 engine and aircraft.
“Each country was afforded the opportunity to work with their industrial base to provide the F-35 enterprise work over and above their own F-35 needs. Regional considerations such as forward basing, aircraft phasing, and transportation also contributed to initial assignment decisions,” he said.
These maintenance assignments do not preclude the opportunity for other F-35 partners and FMS customers, including those assigned initial airframe and engine capabilities, to participate and be assigned additional future sustainment work, to include component and system repairs, as the fleet grows and F-35 forward presence expands, Bogdan added.
"This is another example of the continuing expansion of global sustainment opportunities for the international F-35 community," said Bogdan. "The F-35 international users will remain a vital part of the support structure of the Program. Their continuing participation is critical to driving down cost and getting the best-value for the F-35 team and improving the strength of the global sustainment base for many years to come."