Under Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan visited Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., June 29, 2018, to gain insight into F-35 training operations and serve as the guest speaker for the 61st Fighter Squadron F-35A basic course graduation.
Donovan graduated from the 426th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke in 1983 as an F-15 Eagle pilot. His initial instructor pilot in the F-15 was Flight Lt. Brian Wilson, an exchange officer from the Royal Australian Air Force. While at the 61st Fighter Squadron, Donovan received a mission brief from squadron leadership and took a tour of unit facilities.
The 61st FS is one of three squadrons currently responsible for the F-35 training mission at Luke. In addition to training U.S. fighter pilots to operate the F-35, the squadron is integrated with Australia, and Australian instructor pilots train U.S. students and U.S. IPs train Australians.
This year marks 100 years of Mateship, describing the longstanding partnership between the U.S. and Australia militaries.
“The mateship that we build here [in the 61st FS] will continue for years to come in exercises and operations around the world,” said Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander Darren Clare, Australian senior national representative. “It is truly an honor to have Australian fighter pilots trusted to train the next generation of USAF F-35A fighter pilots, and for the 61st FS and 56th Fighter Wing be part of Australian Air Force history helping to introduce the F-35. And to the graduates here tonight I have no doubt that we will be flying alongside each other again in the future.”
During his remarks, Donovan spoke on how less than one percent of the U.S. population is affiliated with the U.S. military, and of that, only a very small percentage make it through the rigorous training and selection process to become fighter pilots.
“We must continually improve the lethality of our warfighting capabilities to ensure our air superiority in any future conflict,” Donovan said. “We do this is by making sure we have the greatest technical proficiency, the most advanced weaponry, and the most highly trained fighter pilots in the world. It is also vitally important we do all this in concert with our great allies such as Australia.”
Donovan encouraged the graduating class to take what they’ve learned from their time at the Luke and apply it to their assignments in the operational Air Force.