A delegation of Arizona representatives, including state Attorney General Terry Goddard and Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett met with the Air Force leadership in mid-December in the Pentagon to make the case for Luke Air Force Base hosting an F-35 training schoolhouse. The Arizona Republic reported that the Arizona officials articulated the state’s overwhelming support for the mission and belief that neither the anticipated pollution nor noise levels associated with the F-35 would prevent it from coming to Luke, which is currently a large F-16 base and training site. While the meeting took place only several weeks after the Air Force announced that it was deferring the final decision on establishing the initial joint F-35 training school at Eglin AFB, Fla., over noise concerns, these Arizona officials denied linkage. “We didn’t even talk about Eglin. That wasn’t the focus of our meeting,” Barrett told the Northwest Florida Daily News in a separate report. He said, while aware of some of the issues associated with Eglin, he and his cohorts are interested in positioning Luke favorably for the second round of F-35 basing decisions and are not posturing to influence the Eglin decision. And, an Air Force spokesman told the same newspaper that the Air Force never intended F-35 pilot training to occur at only one location. Eglin was identified as the initial site, but Luke may be considered as one of the additional sites.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.