More F-35s to Luke

F-35A Lightning IIs perform an aerial refueling mission with a KC-135 Stratotanker on May 13, 2013, off the coast of northwest Florida. (Image © USAF / Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen)
F-35A Lightning IIs perform an aerial refueling mission with a KC-135 Stratotanker on May 13, 2013, off the coast of northwest Florida. (Image © USAF / Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen)

Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, will get 72 additional F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft, bringing the eventual total number of the fifth-generation fighters expected there at 144.

The Air Force’s initial decision to establish an F-35 pilot training center here was announced in August 2012, following a three-year process that included an extensive environmental impact analysis.

The Lockheed Martin F-35A, also known as Joint Strike Fighter, intended to be the Air Force’s premier strike aircraft through the first half of the 21st century. It is a multirole fighter that is expected to eventually phase out the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thuderbolt II.

Aircraft are expected to begin arriving at Luke AFB in spring 2014, although exact timing will depend on production schedules. Construction on base to prepare for the aircraft is currently underway, with about US$10 million of US$57 million in projects already completed.

The 2012 Record of Decision cited several reasons why Luke AFB was the service’s top choice for F-35A basing, including facility and ramp capacity, range access, weather and capacity for future growth. The base has been training fighter pilots for more than 70 years.

Source: USAF