Luke Air Force Base Hits Historic Milestone with F-35

Luke Air Force Base Hits Historic Milestone with F-35

Luke Air Force Base Hits Historic Milestone with F-35

Story by Steven Valinski

Photos as credited

Luke's first F-35 (11-5030) on display at the 2014 Luke AFB Air Show

Luke’s first F-35 (11-5030) on display at the 2014 Luke AFB Air Show

On March 31, 2015 the 56th Fighter Wing out of Luke Air Force Base in Arizona reached the 1000-sortie milestone in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The 56th FW is the fastest F-35 wing in the U.S. Department of Defense to reach this milestone. The sortie was flown by Maj. Joshua Arki of the 61st Fighter Squadron.

This is the second F-35 milestone Luke AFB has reached recently. Last week, Luke’s first F-35 student sortie was flown. The student that flew the sortie was none other than the 56th FW commander, Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus who is transitioning from the F-16 to the F-35. This training sortie signified an important step toward Luke’s mission of training the world’s greatest F-35 fighter pilots. Luke has already been training pilots on the F-16 Fighting Falcon since 1983.

Maj. Joshua Arki, 61st Fighter Squadron pilot, prepares to fly the F-35 1,000th  training sortie at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., March 31, 2015.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devante Williams)

Maj. Joshua Arki, 61st Fighter Squadron pilot, prepares to fly the F-35 1,000th training sortie at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., March 31, 2015.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devante Williams)

Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus had this to say: “I’m extremely proud of the extraordinary work our maintainers are doing to ensure our pilots have mission ready and safe jets. The F-35 is going to be the backbone of the Air Force’s fighter fleet for decades to come and Luke will play a vital role in producing the world’s greatest, most lethal F-35 pilots. With initial operational capability scheduled to occur late next year, it’s important that we get our training program and process dialed in and as efficient and refined as our F-16 training program is so we can help meet the Air Force’s scheduled goal.”

Presently, there are 20 F-35’s assigned at Luke. Two of these belong to an F-35 partner nation, the Royal Australian Air Force.

The first official class of F-35 student pilots is scheduled to begin at the Academic Training Center, a 145,000-square-foot two story state-of-the-art training center, in May.

Currently, the 61st Fighter Squadron is the only F-35 squadron at Luke and includes partner nation Australia. The 62nd Fighter Squadron is expected to stand-up in June, to be joined by partner-nations Italy and Norway. Flight operations for the 62nd are scheduled to begin in September of 2015. Other partner-nations that will be joining the U.S., Australia, Italy, and Norway in the F-35A training program at Luke will be the Netherlands and Turkey, in addition to Foreign Military Sales countries Japan, Korea and Israel.

Steven Valinski on EmailSteven Valinski on FacebookSteven Valinski on FlickrSteven Valinski on Google
Steven Valinski

Steven is from Long Island, New York and now resides in sunny Mesa, Arizona. Steven’s love for aviation began when he was a child with a fascination for WWII aircraft. This love of aviation was further fostered by his uncle, a long-time Trans World Airlines (TWA) employee who had a passion for all forms of aviation.


Steven’s interest in photography began when he was 16 years old when he received his first SLR camera, a Minolta XGA. It makes sense that eventually, his passion for aviation and photography would merge into a love for aviation photography.


In addition to being the web designer, webmaster and chief editor of Aviation Photography Digest, Steven has been published in numerous magazines worldwide.


Steven has an M.S. from Boston University and uses Nikon photographic equipment.


Steven can be reached at: [email protected]


Send this to a friend

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
All rights reserved © Aviation Photography Digest, 2017
Subscribe to our FREE newsletter and get notified when new articles are published.
  • Original material featuring air forces from around the world
  • High quality photographs tell the visual story
  • Unique insight into military aviation
  • Featured videos
  • New content published regularly