The Hunter is a historically and strategically significant region for Defence in Australia, poised to play a crucial role in the nation’s military future and the global supply chain.
The region is home to two military bases, RAAF Base Williamtown and the Lone Pine Barracks in Singleton, with a mature support industry comprising a strong network of primes and small- to medium-sized enterprises offering specialised skills and services.
RAAF Base Williamtown is the nation’s main fighter pilot training hub and the key Australian base for the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, the world’s most advanced aircraft.
The presence of the JSF at RAAF Base Williamtown has positioned the Hunter as a national and international hub for Defence training and sustainment operations, and will be a catalyst for significant growth in aviation and aerospace expertise.
The Hunter region makes a major contribution to national Defence capability across air, land and sea, with a coastal location that is ideal for servicing military requirements.
The workforce is highly skilled and attuned to the needs of Defence, with more than 4,000 military and contractor personnel employed within the Hunter on Defence sites and many more in support industries.
The Hunter offers the complete Defence value chain with expertise in:
- Advanced and precision manufacturing
- Research and development
- Diagnostics and prognostics
- Specialist engineering and design
- Systems engineering and integration
- Project management
- Logistics and asset management
- Fleet planning
- Through-life supply chain management
- Capability management
- Weapons systems support
- Training, accreditation, certification and design approval
- Military simulation training
The following prime contractors are part of the Hunter Defence industry network:
RAAF Base Williamtown is the nation’s premier fighter aircraft base and will be the primary base for Australia’s 72-strong fleet of F35 Lightning II Joint Strike fighter aircraft. The first two JSF jets arrived at Williamtown in December 2018, heralding a new era in Australian Defence aviation.
A $1 billion investment has been made at Williamtown to prepare the base for the JSFs, including a 300-metre runway extension. As well as hosting the Australian fleet, Williamtown is the Asia-Pacific sustainment hub for the JSF program.
The RAAF has had a presence at Williamtown since World War II. The base is a thriving community and economic precinct, supporting more than 3500 jobs, which is expected to grow to 4500 with the expansion of the JSF program.
Williamtown is the home of the Air Combat Group and headquarters of the Surveillance Response Group. More than 20 squadrons and headquarter units are stationed at the base operating the following aircraft:
- F/A18 A/B ‘Classic’ Hornet
- BAE Hawk 127
- E-7A Wedgetail
In addition, the base hosts the Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office, Ground Telecommunications Systems Program Office and Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems Office.
The RAAF base is synonymous with the suburb of Williamtown and is part of the social and cultural fabric of the Hunter region, with strong connections to the community. Even the local A-League football team plays under the name of the Newcastle Jets, bearing a logo showing three fighters flying in formation.
The Singleton Military Area (SMA) is home to the Lone Pine Barracks, which supports the School of Infantry and Special Forces Training Centre. The base houses a permanent Defence workforce as well as visiting units that use the training range on an annual basis.
Each year, up to 4500 trainees, 4000 cadets and 30 reservists pass through the base. The 15,000-hectare Singleton Training Area is used extensively by the Army and is a key Australian Defence force facility for field, weapons and ammunition training.
As well as the School of Infantry, the barracks houses the Joint Logistics Unit East (Hunter Valley), the Australian Army Infantry Museum as well as Estate and Infrastructure Group SMA and other regular support services.
The Williamtown Aerospace Centre is a hub of commercial Defence capability, proving first-class facilities adjacent to the RAAF Base and Newcastle Airport.
All buildings have been designed and built to Defence zone level security requirements and have access to Defence Secure IT Networks (subject to Defence approval) to meet the modern requirements of aerospace, defence, technology and aviation, and related industry companies.
Tenants include Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Raytheon Australia, Nova Systems, Hensoldt, REDARC/Hummingbird Electronics, PLEXSYS, Bohemia Interactive, Milskil, Martin Baker, ViaSat Australia, Boeing Defence Australia and the University of Newcastle.
Astra Aerolab is a high-tech aviation and aerospace hub being built from the ground up at Williamtown that will eventually support more than 5,000 high-performance, next-generation jobs.
The 76-hectare business technology park will specialise in manufacturing, maintenance and research projects. It will be catalyst for business investment, smart jobs for the region, STEM-related research and education. It will develop the workforce of the future, transforming the region’s capability.
The site provides direct airside access where diverse industries can co-locate, collaborate and flourish with other cutting-edge innovators. It will house maintenance and support services for Australian fighter jets and create new openings for businesses to meet that demand.
The University of Newcastle (UoN) is part of the NSW Defence Innovation Network, which strengthens research and development in defence priority areas such as quantum technologies, trusted autonomous systems and cyber security.
The Defence innovation Network is a state-sponsored partnership between the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) and seven world-class universities, enhancing collaboration with industry to enable faster development and commercialisation of technologies.
The University of Newcastle fosters engagement with the defence industry in Newcastle and Hunter Region Defence through its Defence and Security Research and Innovation Hub.
Its proximity to regional Defence bases has contributed to close alignment with Defence and its industry supporters. UoN worked collaboratively with these partners to develop four new defence-driven programs that launched in 2019:
- Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering (Honours)
- Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
- Bachelor of Renewable Energy Engineering (Honours)
- Bachelor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Newcastle is the most research-intensive university in regional Australia and its defence research capabilities are of the highest standard with Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) ratings of 5 (denoting ‘well above world class’) for Applied Mathematics, Civil Engineering, and Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
The Hunter region is also a leader in STEM program implementation in schools, a strong focus of RDA (Regional Development Australia) Hunter.
RDA Hunter has been designing, creating and implementing STEM initiatives since 2010, designed to encourage higher participation in STEM subjects and activities and skill students for the jobs of the future.
RDA Hunter’s STEM programs focus on steering students towards future technologies such as 3D Design and Printing, Robotics, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Embedded Systems. The programs have reached more than 50,000 school students with innovative, hands-on and fun educational experiences and immersive industry activities that teach the skills young people will need in the future.