Lightning IIs fly night mission — All part of the training —

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61st FS ground crew and pilot prepare an F-35 Lightning II for launch. The 61st FS trains an international contingent of F-35 pilots in a rigorous and thorough curriculum which includes nighttime flying.

The bright afterburner exhaust from the F-35 illuminates the tail section of the jet in the dark. The F-35’s afterburner can rapidly accelerate the jet to speeds significantly faster than the speed of sound.

A 61st Fighter Squadron F-35 Lightning II takes off Feb. 2 at sundown in the Arizona desert on full afterburner from Luke Air Force Base. F-35s take off on afterburner in order to gain elevation and speed quickly. Night flying is an integral part of the training of F-35 pilots at Luke.

A 61st FS F-35 accelerates through the evening sky propelled by the force of its afterburner.

Three 61st FS F-35s wait in queue for take-off at the end of the runway. The advanced helmet worn by F-35 pilots includes integrated night vision which allows for maximum visibility in the dark.