Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited BAE Systems at Williamtown as the first F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft is inducted into BAE's maintenance depot - a major milestone in the $65 billion defence program.
The 33-strong fleet is now ready to deploy on operations.
"This is about protecting and securing Australia's interests but it's also creating jobs and driving investment right here in the Hunter and across the country too," Mr Morrison said during his second visit to the Hunter in six months.
"This induction demonstrates the world leading capability of our local defence industry here in Australia."
More than 50 Australian companies are sharing in $2.7 billion worth of contracts as part of the F-35 Program. In addition several Hunter-based companies including Milskil, HI Fraser and Varley, have secured sustainment and maintenance contracts worth millions of dollars.
Read also: Roadmap for $700m electric vehicle hub
"As we recover from the COVID recession a key plank of our economic recovery plan is our $270 billion investment in defence capability over the next decade and our $65 billion commitment in air capabilities which includes the Joint Strike Fighter Program," Mr Morrision said.
"This investment is keeping Australians safe and secure while creating more jobs and more opportunities for businesses."
After being selected as the maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade depot for the Southeast Asia region, the BAE Williamtown will host Australian F-35A aircraft and other nations' F-35 aircraft.
The aircraft are undergoing routine structural modifications to improve the airframe, ensuring it reaches full life, and align it with newer aircraft.
Up to four Australian F-35A aircraft were expected to undergo routine maintenance at BAE's Williamtown facility this year.
"The Morrison Government is unashamedly committed to building a robust sovereign defence industry," Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said.
"We are building our sovereign defence capabilities. We now have 41 fully trained RAAF pilots, nine of whom trained on home soil at RAAF Base Williamtown. We also have more than 225 trained technicians as the RAAF's F-35A maintenance capability continues to develop."
This progress is being supported through the sovereign training support services contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Australia, worth approximately $70 million.
It will see more than 70 personnel employed at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal.
"This demonstrates the extraordinary opportunities this program is providing for Australians and the economy, especially as it continues to bounce back from COVID-19," Minister Reynolds said.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the program had helped the people of the Hunter region weather the impact of the economic impact of the pandemic.
"In 2020, job losses in the aeronautics industry due to COVID-19 resulted in the closure of Jetstar's aircraft maintenance facility here in Newcastle, and many other regional facilities," Minister Price said.
"Not only have these technical workers been retained in the local Hunter aviation industry, but they will also help Defence build its sovereign sustainment capability as the fleet continues to grow."