Airmen at Luke AFB, Ariz., completed the base’s first local training sortie with the F-35A strike fighter, according to a base release. “Our first sortie [on May 5] represents a significant milestone in the F-35 program at Luke,” said Lt. Col. Michael Ebner, commander of the base’s 61st Fighter Squadron. “The ability to conduct local flight operations demonstrates the commitment by thousands of individuals who have worked to make this a reality,” he said in the May 9 release. Luke in March received the first of up to 144 F-35s slated for beddown there as part of the F-35A schoolhouse standing up. This airframe flew the maiden training sortie; it’s still the only F-35 currently at Luke, which is transitioning from operating F-16s to F-35s. More F-35s are expected to arrive within the next few weeks.
As the U.S. continues to pursue a diplomatic resolution with Russia over its troop buildup on the Ukraine border, the Defense Department is looking into what capabilities it will need to reassure NATO allies if Russia does launch an invasion, its top spokesperson said Jan. 21.