All 10 members of the Arizona Congressional delegation signed a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley last week, encouraging him to continue the advanced fighter training role at Luke Air Force Base with employment of the new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. As USAF ponders JSF basing, Luke has at least one significant advantage—the Barry Goldwater training range. According to a news release from the Luke Forward campaign, launched last week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the lawmakers said, “We have worked together to enable Luke AFB and the Barry M. Goldwater Range to remain vital national assets in the Air Force’s support of the global contingency operations.” Luke stands to lose 28 of its current F-16 fighters next year under USAF’s legacy fighter retirement plan and logically would expect to swap the remaining F-16s for F-35s in the future.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.