report by: Thierry Letellier
Luke Air Force Base is located in Maricopa County, Arizona and is approximately thirty miles west-northwest from central Phoenix. The geographical coordinates are 112°22’W longitude and 33°32’N latitude. The field elevation is 1090 feet above medium sea level, and the base’s parallel runways are oriented 030° – 210°.The main host is actually the 56th Fighter Wing depending from the Air Education And Training Command ( AETC ).The 56th Fighter Wing, one of the most highly decorated aviation units in history, traced its history to the 56th Pursuit Group which first activated Jan. 15, 1941, at Savannah Air Base, Ga. After World War II, the 56th Fighter Group was assigned at Selfridge Field, Mich.
The 56th Fighter Wing was activated on Aug. 15, 1947, with the 56th Fighter Group as a subordinate unit. The wing’s mission was air defense. The 56th was reassigned to Southeast Asia on March 16, 1967. While in Southeast Asia, the 56th not only supported but also conducted combat operations against an opposing armed enemy force. The wing was reassigned to MacDill AFB, Fla., on June 1, 1975, and conducted combat aircrew training in the F-4 and later fighter training in the F-16. On April 1, 1994, the 56th Fighter Wing was reassigned to Luke AFB. Today, the 56th Fighter Wing, a unit which historically has proven to be “Training Fighter Pilots Second to None.”
Their main field of training action is the Barry M. Goldwater Range ; operated by the 56th Fighter Wing Range Management Office, Airspace and Range Operations office. The Barry M. Goldwater Range (formerly the Luke Air Force Range) is located in southwest Arizona. It serves the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps as an armament and high-hazard testing area; a training area for aerial gunnery, rocketry, electronic warfare, and tactical maneuvering and air support; and a place to develop equipment and tactics. It also serves other defense-related purposes.The Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field provides all range operations and maintenance support for airspace blocks R-2301E, R-2304, and R-2305. It has an 8,500-foot runway that provides an alternative landing field for aircraft on the BMGR that experience in-flight emergencies or have hung ordnance that precludes their flying over populated areas.
The F-35A Lightening II is the Air Force’s variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which will replace the F-16 Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt as the Air Force’s new multi-role fighter. As the world’s premier conventional F-35 training base, Luke is currently training pilots and instructors for the USA, Australia, Norway, Italy – and soon F-35 foreign military sales customers Japan and Israel. Other programme partners – the Netherlands, Turkey and possibly Denmark and Canada. Luke will grow to six F-35 training squadrons. Luke will house 144 jets and 12 full-mission simulators.
The 309th ‘Wild Ducks’ is one of the two squadron mainly concerned with training brand new F-16 pilots for USAF remaining in Luke AFB. The second one is the 310th FS ‘Tophats’. This squadron conducts advanced training for pilots who are assigned to units specialising in Forward Air Control (FAC) and it is also responsible for training pilots in night time combat operations using Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) and the LANTIRN system.
The 21st FS ‘Gamblers’ are responsible for training F-16 pilots for the Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF). The squadron consists of Block 20 F-16A/Bs, part of a batch delivered to Taiwan in the early 1990s. The other squadron assigned to the group is the 425th FS ‘Black Widows’. This is a joint USAF and Republic of Singapore AF (RSAF) training unit which provides advanced training on the F-16 to RSAF pilots, WSOs and maintenance personnel. The aircraft in use is the Block 52 F-16C/D, with the D-models sporting the distinctive bulged spine of the latter versions of the Viper. Globalairpower was able to get the suburbs of Luke AFB to catch some action during a very pleasant journey. We are supposed to come back next year.