Luke’s role in the mission over the years

Luke AFB has been a part of the Air Training Command and Air Education Training Command for approximately half of its lifetime and has been the largest fighter wing in the United States Air Force since 1989. While typical wings have three squadrons, Luke has always had four or more.

“Even during World War II, Luke was the largest training base,” said Richard Griset, 56th Fighter Wing historian. “The training mission is a great mission and we’ve done it for a long time. Since the very beginning we have taken our pilots and trained them to fly our fighter aircraft.”

During World War II, Luke Field produced 17,321 graduates from fighter training programs for the U.S. and its allies.

Vintage map of Maricopa County showing Luke Field in the far side of the valley, and many miles from the cities, in the early years of Luke Field. (Courtesy photo)

After a brief period of inactivation, the base was reactivated as Luke AFB during the Korean War. The base was initially equipped with F-51 Mustang and F-84 Thunderjet aircraft. In 1957, Luke AFB joined the supersonic age when the North American F-100 Super Sabre was assigned to the base. In 1964, Luke began foreign military sales training programs in the F-104 Starfighter and the F-5A Freedom Fighter.

The A-7D Corsair arrived in 1969, but was reassigned when the U.S. Air Force decided to make Luke AFB the Air Force’s primary F-4 Phantom II training base. The F-4 was used extensively throughout the Vietnam War, due to its ground-attacks and aerial roles. The first F-4 was assigned in 1971.

The first of the Superfighters, the F-15 Eagle, was assigned to the base in 1974, followed in 1982 by the second Superfighter, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Then the F-15E Strike Eagle arrived in 1988.

On Oct. 1, 1991, the 58th Training Wing was re-designated a fighter wing, making Luke AFB the service’s primary F-16 training base. Also in 1991, the F-15 was reassigned, and four years later the F-15E was reassigned.

In 1994, the 58th was re-designated and moved to Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, and the 56th Fighter Wing was reassigned from MacDill AFB to Luke AFB.

On March 10, 2014, the first F-35A landed at Luke, starting the next period in history.

From the AT-6 Texan in 1941, to the F-35A Lightning II aircraft that we fly today, Luke has been home to a number of fighter aircraft. Since then, Luke has produced more than 61,000 graduates from fighter training programs for the U.S. and its allies and has earned its nickname, “Fighter Country.”

Today, the 56th Fighter Wing, a unit which historically had some of the world’s greatest fighter pilots, continues the mission that has been identified with Luke AFB since 1941: training the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat ready Airmen.

“With the community support we have received over the years, it looks like we’ll be here a long while,” Griset said. “The F-35 program sets the future up for Luke Air Force Base to remain very significant as part of AETC.”

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