Training F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots to carry out the Air Force mission is a big responsibility. The 56th Training Squadron at Luke Air Force Base is responsible for training F-16 pilots to fly, fight and win.
“The 56th TRS contribution to the wing’s mission is to train the world’s greatest F-16 pilots,” said Lt. Col. Chad Burdick, 56th TRS director of operations. “Every F-16 student in the wing passes through our squadron. We train 80 percent of all F-16 students, and ultimately produce 50 percent of all fighter pilots in the entire Air Force.”
Last year the 56th TRS graduated 469 students from multiple courses, including basic F-16 instruction, requalification, instructor pilot upgrades, senior officer requalification and the top-off suppression of enemy air defenses fundamentals course.
Luke employs close to 47 weapons systems support contractors, some with more than 25 years of experience and a vast arsenal of knowledge about many different aircraft. Among these contracted staff members are 22 instructors as well as graphic artists and computer programmers who develop academic coursework for the students.
Weapons systems support contractors provide academic and simulator training for F-16 students, as well as scheduling for the flying squadrons.
All 56th TRS training is conducted across six facilities on Luke and the Papago Park military reservation in central Phoenix.
For Capt. Joseph Chasser, 56th TRS student flight commander, the best part of his job is molding young pilots into wingmen.
“It’s nice to start with a fresh young lieutenant and build them up from not knowing anything about the F-16 to being an effective combat-ready wingman,” he said. “It’s good knowing you had that effect on them and you can send them off with confidence to fly, fight and win.”