Luke Stands Up F-35A Training Squadron

Officials at Luke AFB, Ariz., activated the 61st Fighter Squadron, the first of six such units at the base that will train pilots to fly the F-35A strike fighter. The activation ceremony took place on Oct. 25, reported the Arizona Republic. The unit, dubbed the “Top Dogs,” is expected to receive its first F-35A in January; at full strength in about two years, it will have 24 F-35As, according to the newspaper. Initially, the squadron will train the pilots who will serve as instructors at Luke. By 2015, the instructors are expected to begin training pilots who will go on to serve in F-35A combat-ready units. Overall, the Air Force plans to station up to 144 F-35As at Luke for the pilot training. The 61st FS traces its heritage back to 1941. From April 1994 to August 2010, the unit trained F-16 pilots at Luke before the Air Force inactivated it when the service retired some older F-16s in the inventory.