Luke Air Force Base in Arizona on 19 March officially began training student pilots on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Brigadier General Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, flew the wing’s first training sortie, two months after flying his last F-16 sortie.
The F-35 has found a home at Luke, which for decades was the dedicated US Air Force training base for future F-16 pilots. The first F-35 touched down at Luke over a year ago. Since, Luke instructor pilots flew 1,000 hours in the vast airspace around Luke to get to know their new toys. Currently, Luke is home to 20 F-35s, plus dozens of remaining F-16s with various squadrons.
The 61st ‘Top Dogs’ Fighter Squadron is the first squadron in the 56th Fighter Wing scheduled to start F-35 flying training for future F-35 instructor, operational and test pilots. It will train US Air Force and partner nation pilots thereafter. Among them are Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) pilots and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) students.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Strapping ‘on’ the F-35. (Image © Senior Airman Devante Williams / USAF)