First Australian F-35A arrives at Luke AFB ,AZ
The Royal Australian Air Force got an early Christmas present on December 18th, 2014 with the arrival of their first F-35A multirole fifth-generation strike fighter, to be based at Luke AFB.
Photorecon.net was invited to cover this monumental event. The invited guests and media waited anxiously until a group of aircraft finally appeared in the western sky, a flight of four F-35As along with two F-16 chase aircraft. Three of the F-35A aircraft in the flight were local LF tail code birds, airborne to welcome the newest member of the Luke team. History was made as this fourth aircraft, serial A35-002, touched down. The F-35s taxied in, the three Luke birds returned to the right side of the ramp while the new Australian aircraft taxied left to meet its long awaiting ground crew members, who have called Luke home for almost half a year getting ready for this day.
Welcoming the aircraft, Brigadier General Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing Commander said “Today, we take another tremendous step forward in our transition to the F-35 here at Luke. Australia is the first of 10 nations that will not only become part of the Luke community, but will share in calling the West Valley a home away from home”. “The Royal Australian Air Force is delighted to be the first foreign partner nation with F-35A aircraft arriving at Luke Air Force Base,”
Air Commodore Gary Martin, the Australian Air Attaché said. “This is an important milestone for Australia and we are looking forward to the commencement of our fifth-generation pilot training here at Luke in 2015.”
The Royal Australian Air Force will capitalize on Luke’s near perfect VFR training weather, albeit not so friendly to the maintainers who will have to brave the near 120+ degree temperatures of the Sonoran Desert.
But wait – this is the Royal Australian Air Force, right? A hardy bunch who have been braving conditions like this since before cocky was an egg. In World War I they fought in places like New Guinea, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and on the Western Front, always willing to get in the fight. The same held true throughout World War II as they served proudly with other Allied forces in North Africa, the Mediterranean, the European Theater and in the Pacific, fighting side by side in the air next to our United States Navy and Army Air Corps at some of the most historic battles of the war.
Post World War II, they saw action in the skies above Korea, flying Gloster Meteors to engage the far superior Mig 15s. Thundering on through the Vietnam War in the Canberra bombers from Australia’s No. 2 Squadron, they flew approximately 12,000 sorties and dropped 76,389 bombs while losing only two of their aircraft to missiles and ground fire during the course of the war. No. 2 Squadron returned home with a USAF commendation for its performance throughout the war.
Most recently, while serving with Allied forces in the Middle East, F/A-18s from No. 75 Squadron performed escort and ground attack roles. One only has to do some basic research to find endless accounts of how valuable an ally The Royal Australian Air Force is and has been to the free world. Always ready to jump in and support freedom around the world. So it is quite fitting they are the first of 10 nations to train next to the USAF. With a total of 22 Royal Australian Air Force aircraft arriving in the next few years, Luke will be the home away from home to this diverse group of aviators and maintainers.
Australia’s training will be conducted in conjunction with the 61st Fighter Squadron. Other allied nations will soon join the Luke F-35A training family too. 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.
As a west Phoenix resident living a few miles from Luke AFB, I welcome the diversity that the community will soon see, not to mention that the skies will continue to be filled with fighter aircraft and the sounds of freedom. The whole F-35 program has a lot prove, and soon it will begin show its mettle. It has its naysayers and its supporters, but one thing that needs to be said is the choice of Luke AFB as the home to all F-35A training was one of the best choices that the government has made in recent years. Luke AFB. enjoys a proud history as a state-of-the-art training base to both USAF and allied nation pilots. The aircraft will soon change but the base will continue to “Train Fighter Pilots Second To None”.
Photorecon.net would like to thank the following for unlimited access to this event: Brigadier General Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing Commander Air Commodore Gary Martin RAAF Air Attaché Maj. Matthew Hasson, Captain Ryan Decamp, 2nd Lieutenant Tanya Wren and the entire staff of the 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, they are always a pleasure to work with