Jetstar Workers Swap A320s For F-35s At Australian Air Force

Some former Jetstar employees have found new jobs at BAE Systems Australia to work on military aircraft. Twenty-five former Jetstar technicians and apprentices will swap working on Airbus A320s for F-35 advanced fighter aircraft. The employees will be based a the Royal Australian Air Force’s Williamtown base, approximately 130 kilometers north of Sydney. Jetstar had maintained an A320 engineering base there until recently.

25 former Jetstar technicians are now working for BAE Systems on fighter aircraft. Photo: Australian Defence Department

According to a report earlier this month in Australian Aviation, four former Jetstar employees will work on the Hawk Lead-in Fighter at BAE’s own facility. The remaining 21 workers will support the RAAF F-35 team at Williamtown.

“Over the next five years, we expect to grow our Williamtown workforce significantly to support Australia’s growing F-35 fleet“, says BAE Systems Australia Chief Executive Gabby Costigan in a statement.
“The addition of 25 specialists to our workforce will ensure that we can continue to develop, grow, and retain critical aerospace capabilities that will benefit both the Hunter region and the nation.”

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter a step-up for the RAAF

BAE Systems says it plays a key role in sustaining the F-35 advanced fighter aircraft for Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific region. Australia has purchased 72 of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters. Thirty have already arrived, and they will replace the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet aircraft – the backbone of Australia’s air combat capability for some 30 years. The F-35s will be based at RAAF Williamtown and also at RAAF Tindal, a few hours south of Darwin.
“The stealthy, advanced F-35A is a step-change in the Australian Defence Force’s capabilities, giving Australia an edge against the emergence of advanced capabilities in our region,” said Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne, when the first F-35 arrived in 2018.
When first announced, the F-35 was controversial, both for the cost (US$106 million each) and production issues. But few have faulted the plane’s capabilities, and now the F-35s are landing in Australia, criticism is more muted.
F-35A Lightning II aircraft A35-008 touches down at RAAF Base Williamtown. Photo: Australian Defence Department

A handy bit of business for BAE Systems Australia

For BAE Systems Australia, the F-35s are a handy bit of business. Not only do they have a role in maintaining them, but they also look after the 33 strong Australian fleet of Hawk Mk 127 ‘lead-in fighters.’ These planes are used to train pilots for combat aircraft such as the RAAF’s F/A-18s and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
In Australia, BAE Systems is the leading defense contractor. BAE Systems also has an interest in the Royal Australian Navy’s multi-billion-dollar Hunter Class Frigate program. In July, the Australian Government said they would spend US$205 billion over the next decade to upgrade defense capabilities. As BAE Systems noted in their recent market update, that should “provide further opportunities to enhance and extend our growth profile.”
The 25 former Jetstar employees have landed on their feet. Photo: Australian Defence Department
The Australian F-35s are all due to be flying by the end of 2023. They have an anticipated lifespan of 30 years. But already, there are discussions and analyses about what will supersede the F-35s. However, most agree that this type of military aircraft is evolving from manned fighters such as F-35s to other platforms like long-range super stealthy armed drones.
Meanwhile, those former Jetstar employees have landed on their feet and are working on something a bit faster and flashier than an Airbus.
What are your thoughts about this switch? Let us know what you think in the comment section.