F-35s soar through milestones in skies over Arizona

The F-35A Lightning II landed at Luke for the first time on March 10, 2014, with excitement and awe from the welcoming crowd as the jet soared overhead. Since that time, partner nations and F-35s have continued to arrive and join the mission. Together they achieved Luke’s most recent milestone with the 90,000th F-35 flying hour.

A 63rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit maintainer performs a post-flight inspection on an F-35A Lightning II after a mission Jan. 7, 2020, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Crew chiefs perform nose-to-tail inspections after flight to ensure the aircraft are ready for the next day’s training. Luke is the largest F-35 training base in the U.S. Air Force, providing combat ready Airmen and pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)

The F-35A is the U.S. Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter. It brings with it an enhanced capability to survive in the advanced threat environment in which it was designed to operate. With its aerodynamic performance and advanced integrated avionics, the F-35A provides next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness, and reduced vulnerability for the United States and allied nations.

The 56th Fighter Wing currently has four F-35 squadrons, with four partner nations integrated into two of them. The first fighter squadron to reactivate with the F-35 mission was the 61st Fighter Squadron. This was followed by the 62nd Fighter Squadron; the 63rd Fighter Squadron, and most recently the 308th Fighter Squadron.

Norway, Italy, Netherlands and Denmark are the current partner nations training alongside the U.S. Together, the program has 116 F-35s assigned to Luke, with 91 of those being U.S. and 25 belonging to partner nations.

The aircraft maintenance units have ensured the safety and reliability of F-35s for their respective fighter squadrons and allowed for thousands of sorties to be flown annually, including 14,808 sorties in 2021 alone.

From the early days of flying in WWII, to today’s mission with the F-35A Lightning II, Luke’s mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat ready Airmen continues and the sound of freedom fills the skies as the milestones fly by.

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, assigned to the 63rd Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., climbs to a higher altitude Aug. 26, 2019, at the Barry M. Goldwater Range near Gila Bend, Ariz. Pilots use the airspace in Gila Bend to train dropping ordnance and conducting strafing passes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

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