The first F-35A strike fighter assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing touched down at Luke AFB, Ariz., its new home, on Monday. “This is the first-ever international weapon system program, and Luke will be the future home of its first-ever international flying training unit,” said Air Force spokesman Maj. Matt Hesson in a statement ahead of the airplane’s March 10 arrival. All F-35 pilots currently train at the joint-service F-35 schoolhouse at Eglin AFB, Fla. “Upon completion of the programmed aircraft delivery, Luke will be home to 144 F-35A aircraft belonging to eight partner nations” for the training, said Hesson. The first F-16 instructor pilot at Luke to convert over to the F-35A began training earlier this year. Luke’s first F-35A is the 100th F-35 airframe to roll off Lockheed Martin’s production line at Fort Worth, Tex.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.