2014 for the F-35 program was all about momentum, maturity and meeting milestones. The enterprise was expanded with maintenance and training depots stood up around the U.S. including our very own Luke Air Force Base.
On Friday, March 14, the first F-35 Lightning II assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing was officially delivered during a ceremony at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Glendale, Ariz. In case you missed this historical event, below is the video that was played during the ceremony. Enjoy!
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Officials from West Valley cities and community groups as well as state and federal leaders are thrilled with today’s announcement by the Department of Defense that Luke Air Force Base will receive three additional squadrons of the Air Force’s new F-35A Lightning II fighter jet.
With today’s announcement, Luke AFB will now have more F-35A’s assigned to its base in Glendale than any other installation in the Air Force. The announcement also paves the way for Luke to have a total of six squadrons totaling 144 F-35A jets when the base fully transitions to an F-35A training center over the next several years. The Air Force plans to phase out and eventually replace its aging fleet of F-16s with the new, more technology advanced F-35A.
Progress has been swift. And here we are. The first building set for completion in the fall, with the first aircraft expected to land sometime in January. That’s just 17 months after the initial announcement was made about the selection of Luke Air Force Base for F-35A Lightning II training. The Department of Defense released its Record of Decision and the afternoon of Aug. 1, 2012, when Air Force Secretary Michael Donley announced Luke Air Force Base had been chosen as a training center for the F-35 Lightning II. Luke AFB met with the media at a last-minute press conference…
Sequestration is not affecting construction of two F-35 training facilities at Luke Air Force Base. Although sequestration, which involved civilian personnel furloughs, resulted in cancellation of the spring open house and air show at the base, it has no effect on the F-35 program.
Lt. Col. Scott Fredrick, F-35 Division Chief in the F-35 integration office at Luke AFB, said the money was programmed a few years ago for construction of the facilities.
“So, all F-35 buildings are as programmed right now,” he said.
Fredrick said as he walks through the project, he sees “quite a few folks out there wearing hardhats,” and construction is right on schedule.
In fact, the first building, what is called Ops 1, the squadron building for pilots, should be up and operational in mid-October. Half of this structure is the building that housed the 62nd Fighter Squadron operations unit. It is 100 feet from the aircraft maintenance unit.
There are two reasons I believe Luke Air Force Base is at more risk now than it was during the base selection process for the F-35.
Sequestration and BRAC, which is Base Realignment and Closure.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced that it will seek two rounds of base closures, one in 2015 followed by another in 2017. Apparently DoD wanted to do a BRAC last year but that was stymied by Congress, who just happened to be up for reelection.
An F-22 squadron slated to move from New Mexico to Florida early this year will stay put until early 2014.
The transfer from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., involves 620 active-duty and 230 Reserve airmen, and 21 F-22s and seven T-38 Talons. As a part of the shuffle, Holloman, in spring 2014, will receive two F-16 squadrons with 950 personnel authorizations from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Luke will eventually host three F-35A squadrons.