Construction of a defence and aerospace technology park that will create up to 5,500 jobs and service and maintain Australian fighter jets has today taken flight, thanks to NSW Government funding.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro joined Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock and BAE Systems Australia Director Defence Delivery Andrew Gresham to turn the first sod of the 76-hectare Astra Aerolab precinct.
The Deputy Premier’s visit coincides with Newcastle Airport also signing a Heads of Agreement with major defence contractor BAE Systems Australia to lease land on the 76 hectare precinct.
Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said the new agreement signified an exciting milestone for Astra Aerolab.
“BAE Systems Australia is the nation’s largest defence and security company, so the importance of this signing cannot be overestimated,” he said.
“BAE’s presence will not only attract further jobs and investment, but help ensure we develop the world-class defence and aerospace precinct that our region deserves.”
“RAAF base Williamtown will eventually be home to 56 of the 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) fleet, so Astra will hold an extremely important place in developing and maintaining our nation’s strategic defence capabilities,” added Dr Cock.
BAE Systems Australia Managing Director Defence Delivery Andrew Gresham said the company would directly employ about 400 highly skilled people to support the aircraft sustainment, which would be maintained over the 30 plus years of the aircraft service life.
“This milestone is incredibly important for our business and will facilitate the redevelopment of our existing Williamtown site ahead of our work supporting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Australia,’ he added.
Last year, Deputy Premier Barilaro announced a $11.7 million grant to kick-off the development of Astra Aerolab to capitalise on the existing economic strengths of the region.
Mr Barilaro said he was proud to see his government’s investment start to be realised.
“The infrastructure we have funded will allow aviation companies to quickly establish themselves within the precinct and get on with the job of supporting Royal Australian Air Force combat aircraft, including the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter,” Mr Barilaro said.
“By funding the Astra Aerolab precinct, we are helping to create jobs for aerospace engineers, aviation, IT and avionics specialists and attracting workers to the Hunter region.
“I want to thank Newcastle Airport, the City of Newcastle and Port Stephens Council for their hard work and commitment to making this precinct a reality.”