A milestone was reached for the 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base this past week. The first F-35A Lightning II class has begun, ushering in a new era at the installation tagged to become the F-35’s main training base for both foreign and domestic pilots.
The course syllabus consists of approximately three months of academics and simulator training before the four students, two F-16 Instructor Pilots and two A-10 Instructor Pilots, take their first flight in the jet.
“It’s a build-up approach training where we start with academics, move to hands-on training with the simulators and finally to the aircraft,” said Lieutenant Colonel Matt Hayden, Director of Operations for the 56thTraining Squadron. “The pilots going through the training right now are going to be staying here at Luke to be instructors. When they graduate they may very well turn around in a matter of days to instructing students in what they just learned.”

F-35s To Alaska?
The Flagship of the 61st Fighter Squadron takes off from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for a training sortie.

Luke Air Force Base, located in Glendale, Arizona, is scheduled to receive 144 F-35As by 2024 to complete its stable of training aircraft. The first operational U.S. Air Force unit will be the 34th Fighter Squadron, the “Rude Rams,” and will re-activate at Hill Air Force Base in Utah–an installation scheduled to receive 72 F-35s.