Air Force

March 15, 2013

F-35 Lightning II: Q and A

An F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter arrived at Eglin with a 33rd Fighter Wing piloted F-16 escorting the jet to their new home Aug. 31, 2011. The jets are used for JSF maintenance training until all certifications are complete.

When is the F-35 expected to arrive at Luke AFB?

F-35s are expected to arrive at the 56th Fighter Wing in spring 2014.

When will actual F-35A training begin?

While the 56th Fighter Wing expects to do some flying and informal training a month or so after the first jet arrives, formal syllabus training is likely to begin in late 2014 or early 2015. This will occur after construction of the F-35 Academic Training Center is complete. This state of the art facility will have simulators, training devices and classrooms that will aid Luke in continuing its long history of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots.

How many F-35As will Luke AFB acquire?

The 56th Fighter Wing is scheduled to host 72 F-35As. Those jets will be divided between three pilot training squadrons. The mission is to prepare the next generation of Air Force fighter pilots to employ the jet around the world.

When are the F-16s expected to depart?

One of Luke’s six active-duty fighter squadrons is tentatively scheduled to leave Luke for Holloman AFB, N.M., in early 2014 and another a year later. Because of the size and complexity of these movements, Luke is working hand-in-hand with Holloman to plan these transfers in a way that optimizes the ability to train on F-16s while minimizing the disruption to Airmen and their families. These moves must also be approved by Congress.

Does that mean Luke will no longer train F-16 pilots and maintainers?

The 56th Fighter Wing currently hosts six F-16 pilot training squadrons along with their respective aircraft maintenance units. The wing will still host four squadrons and AMUs after two move to Holloman. Luke will train F-16 pilots and maintainers alongside incoming F-35s for at least several years. The side-by-side training will be done in a way that maximizes Luke’s ability to provide Fighting Falcon and Lightning II pilots and maintenance professionals for Air Force needs worldwide.

Tech. Sgt. Brian West, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, marshals to a stop the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft July 14, 2011, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

What construction will the arrival of the F-35 bring to Luke AFB?

Currently, three venues are under construction related to the F-35. These include an F-35 squadron operations building, its corresponding aircraft maintenance unit facility, and an academic training center. These renovations encompass about $57 million in construction. The state-of-the-art venues will help train the next generation of Air Force fighter pilots and maintenance professionals.

What type of construction has been completed so far since the release of the record of decision?

There are more than $15.3 million in renovations and close to $57 million in new construction underway. Nearly $10 million of that work has been completed to date. The construction will provide world-class facilities supporting the training of pilots and maintainers on the Air Force’s newest fighter jet.

Two F-35s stopped at Luke Air Force Base on their way to Edwards AFB, Calif. The F-35 is still on schedule to arrive at Luke in spring 2014.

How many people have been hired to help with the F-35A?

The hiring process for staff working with the F-35 is underway. The exact number of employees that will be hired is under consideration by leaders. Luke will hire employees based on the needs of the airframe, keeping the long-term training needs in mind.

What important projects are expected to start up or be completed over the next few months?

The 56th FW has begun construction of the first F-35 squadron operations building, its aircraft maintenance unit facility and an academic training center.

When is the construction expected to be completed?

The academic training center is scheduled to complete in late summer of 2014. The first pilot training squadron facility and its aircraft maintenance unit are scheduled to finish construction late this year. The contract process for a second pilot training facility and AMU is underway and is expected to continue through 2014.

What changes other than construction will the arrival of the F-35A bring to Luke AFB?

The core mission of the base will not change. Over time, the 56th FW will likely incorporate more international partners into the training, but Luke has some of that here already. Luke will fly two types of aircraft here which increases the complexity of both the operations and maintenance of aircraft, but the base has done that before for many years. Externally, it should not be too much different from the wing’s current mission except for the additional airframe.

An F-35 takes off from Luke Air Force Base Feb. 22 after a quick stop on its way to Edwards AFB, Calif.

How involved are international air forces on the project?

The base is expecting pilots from at least seven F-35 partner nations to potentially train on the Lightning II at Luke. This follows a long history of Luke serving as a training home to partner nations on other aircraft, as it does now with the F-16.

How will the arrival of the F-35A change the personnel footprint at Luke?

The aircraft movements of F-16 to F-35 will positively change the footprint of personnel at Luke as those transfers happen. Current plans show the arrival of the three incoming F-35 units will bring in 500 to 700 more personnel than are slated to leave Luke in support of the Holloman transfer.

Will the F-35A at Luke mean more deployments for Luke personnel?

Deployments for F-35-trained professionals are based on international and domestic needs for the aircraft and its mission. Because future needs and threats cannot be predicted, it’s difficult to know what the deployment requirements will look like. As a wing, the 56th FW will ensure Luke’s staff of F-35 professionals trains pilots and maintainers sufficiently to handle threats if called upon to do so on a deployment.

When will we be able to see the F-35A?

The earliest scheduled opportunity to see an F-35 will be when they are permanently delivered to the base in spring 2014. The aircraft have landed at Luke in the past, but this was done in a way that is standard practice for other military aircraft. Military aircraft not assigned to Luke land for a number of reasons, including fuel, maintenance or crew rest, among others. F-16s from Luke follow the same practice at times, for safety purposes, when travelling around the U.S.




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