The F-16 Fighting Falcon has served the U.S. Air Force as one of the world’s premier fighter aircraft, and for nearly a quarter of a century Luke Air Force Base has produced air-to-air and air-to-ground combat warriors in the venerable fighter.
With the mission of training the world’s greatest F-16 fighter pilots and maintainers, while deploying mission-ready warfighters, Luke’s roots with the F-16 began Dec. 6, 1982, when the base’s first permanently assigned Fighting Falcon, an ‘A-model,’ arrived.
Prior to the F-16’s arrival, Luke provided training in the F-15 Eagle, as well as the F-4 Phantom II, F-5 Tiger and
F-104 Starfighter. The base’s first class of F-16 student pilots began training on Jan. 25, 1983, and completed the 18-sortie, 24.1-hour training course nearly two months later on March 14. Almost immediately after, Luke expanded its training program to include foreign pilots and maintainers, and on April 26, four Pakistani pilots began training in the F-16.
Both Luke and the F-16 made a huge leap forward in 1984 with the arrival of the upgraded F-16C Block 25 model, which boasted enhanced avionics and improved handling.
Thirty years later, Luke is still producing F-16 pilots for the combat air forces, including pilots from other countries, in the Block 25 model, but also in Block 42 and 52 aircraft as well. In fact, Luke is the only Air Force base that provides F-16 initial training to active-duty pilots. Additionally, as the aircraft has become more sophisticated, featuring the latest technological enhancements, the training course for new F-16 pilots has expanded from the initial 24.1-hour course to a 55-sortie, 73-flying hour course.
Today, Luke continues its proud heritage of training F-16C pilots in four active-duty squadrons – the 62nd, 308th, 309th and 310th Fighter Squadrons; and two foreign squadrons – the 21st and 425th Fighter Squadrons.
Since 1983, the base has graduated more than 16,000 F-16 pilots. With 138 aircraft currently assigned, Luke graduates more than 400 F-16 pilots each year, flying more than 24,000 sorties. Pilots graduating Luke F-16 training enter the combat Air Forces ready to employ the skills they learned in combat zones worldwide.
Courtesy of 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs