[Editor’s Note: We’ve got some original F-35 content being generated in-house as we speak, but in the mean time check this one out. Lockheed-Martin delivered 45 airplanes last year, and the complement at Luke AFB in Arizona is growing rapidly to accommodate the need for training both American and international pilots on the new Joint Strike Fighter.]
In an interview today, wing commander Brigadier General Scott Pleus says Luke AFB now counts 34 pooled fifth-generation F-35As in American, Australian and Norwegian livery. The wing also continues to produce 95% of the US air force’s F-16 pilots from the base in Phoenix and its two satellite squadrons at Holloman AFB in New Mexico.
As the world’s premier conventional F-35 training base, Luke is currently training pilots and instructors for the USA, Australia, Norway, Italy – and soon F-35 foreign military sales customers Japan and Israel. Other programme partners – the Netherlands, Turkey and possibly Denmark and Canada – will also join the pooling arrangement, where they share aircraft and instructors.
Luke AFB will grow to six F-35 training squadrons, and will soon reactivate its third unit – the 63rd Fighter Squadron, which trained F-16C/D pilots until it disbanded in 2009.
As its former commander, Pleus is looking forward to the 63rd’s return, and he expects one squadron to covert to F-35 each year after that. Eventually, Luke will house 144 jets and 12 full-mission simulators. Singapore and Taiwan also have F-16 training squadrons at the base.
Pleus flew the base’s first F-35 sortie on March 18, 2015, and by the end of the month, it had clocked 1,000 sorties. Luke recently surpassed 3,000 sorties.
Luke’s training programme will grow rapidly through 2024 as F-35 nations work towards initial operational capability. Lockheed is scaling up aircraft production at its main site in Fort Worth, Texas as well as in Italy and Japan, with a planned run of 2,322 A-models.
The article from Flightglobal can be found here.