Air Force to mark Williamtown RAAF Base's 80th birthday and RAAF's 100 year anniversary in 2021

Having endured a busy and COVID-challenged 2020, RAAF Base Williamtown is embarking on a year of new beginnings, expansion and celebrations.

In fact, 2021 will herald in a double celebration marking the Williamtown Air Base's 80th birthday in February followed a month later with the 100-year anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Banners marking the centenary year will soon be appearing around the perimeter fence of the Williamtown base.

Senior Australian Defence Force Officer Group Captain Peter Cluff said that 2021 would be an important time for the Port Stephens community to reflect on the past, celebrate in the present and rejoice in the future.

"The centenary celebrations will comprise a series of national initiatives that will honour the sacrifices and service of the last 100 years while demonstrating today's highly capable force," he said.

"The Williamtown base will host a number of these events including a commemorative service at Nelson Bay and a reception on the base on the centenary date, March 31.

"Then in August in celebration of Williamtown's birthday there will be a flying display over Port Stephens and a heritage culture display planned for Fighter World.

Williamtown RAAF Base personnel unfurling one of the centenary banners.

Williamtown RAAF Base personnel unfurling one of the centenary banners.

"In the coming weeks we will be installing a number of banners along the base perimeter celebrating our fond and rich history.

"The base plans to hold a flying display over Port Stephens in August to celebrate these two significant milestones while honouring the sacrifices and service of the last 100 years."

GPCAPT Cluff said that COVID-19 had presented some challenging times for Air Force personnel immediately after a busy 2019-2020 summer providing support to bushfire relief efforts around the state.

"We also had our personnel lending their support to neighbouring Fiji following cyclone Yasa, which was followed by the state's COVID quarantine compliance activities."

He said that throughout the year the number of F-35 Joint Strike fighter aircraft continued to grow and No. 3 Squadron declared an Initial Operational Capability in late December, meaning the RAAF now had a squadron ready to conduct technologically advanced strike and air combat roles.

"December also saw the last of Williamtown's F/A-18 Hornets retire from service to a very appreciative Port Stephens community," GPCAPT Cluff said.

"Looking ahead, we will continue to test and adjust our F-35 operations and plan for improvements to other surveillance capabilities while also supporting various local charities like our tree planting project in support of Port Stephens Koalas."

Australia's air power began with the Australian flying corps which fought with distinction in the Middle East and Western Front in World War One. The official RAAF had its inauguration on March 31, 2021.

Williamtown RAAF Base personnel unfurling one of the 50m long centenary banners, which will be hung outside the base.

Williamtown RAAF Base personnel unfurling one of the 50m long centenary banners, which will be hung outside the base.

"Since then generations of Air Force members have provided outstanding service to the nation, the centenary will be a time to reflect on their achievements and their sacrifices," GPCAPT Cluff said.

"More than 11,000 Air Force members have lost their lives while serving Australia and we honour them and remember that every one of them left behind a family and friends.

"Currently, RAAF men and women are deployed to the Middle East, United Nations mission in South Sudan and supporting Operation Resolute, protecting Australia's borders."

Today the Air Force is an organisation of more than 14,000 permanent members, 4,500 Reservists and 700 public servants. In addition to air power, Air Force generates cyber and space capabilities for Australia's ongoing security.