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The Air Force got it exactly right in naming Luke Air Force Base its preferred location to train pilots to fly the new F-35 fighter jet. There is no better place for it.

And there’s no better time for good news from Washington.

The Air Force announced Thursday that Luke, at this point in the military’s analysis, is the optimum training location for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 replaces the aging F-16, for which Luke has been the premier training site in the world.

This is a major step in securing Luke’s future. Landing the F-35 is expected to have a positive impact for decades. In the short term, the F-35 could initially bring in as much as $125 million in construction money to ready the base for the aircraft.

Throughout its 69-year history, Luke has played a vital role in the nation’s defense and in Arizona’s development. The base has made a major imprint on the Valley’s growth and has a $2.2 billion annual effect on the state economy.

Its presence is well-known and treasured, which is why Arizona’s political and business leaders and other Luke supporters waged an impressive campaign to tout the base’s virtues to the Defense Department.

Luke was on a short list for the F-35 with training bases in Idaho, Florida and New Mexico. Now Luke is no longer a contender for the new fighter jet; it is the training mission location to beat.

Barring an unexpected adverse finding during an upcoming environmental impact study, Luke should get final approval for the F-35 before next summer.

In a bright future, Luke remains an important part of Arizona’s economy and the nation’s defense system.

From the Arizona Republic Opinions on Aug. 4, 2010 – Read more

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