The operational training concept for Air Force and international F-35 fighters at Luke AFB, Ariz. will be different than the concept now in place there with the F-16, said Air Force, Lockheed Martin, and F-35 System Program office officials. Today, F-16 pilots at Luke fly with squadrons that are unique to their version of the F-16, but the F-35A will be so common that all pilots will be able to use whatever aircraft is generated next. That means any of the partner nation pilots assigned to Luke will be able to fly any US or partner jets located there. An SPO spokesman told the Daily Report liability will be on an “at your own risk” basis. In other words, whoever owns the jet will have to eat the cost in the event of a loss. The spokesman said this arrangement is already in use at Eglin AFB, Fla., where British and Marine Corps pilots fly each other’s F-35Bs. It’s not been an issue so far as not a single test or operational F-35 has been lost in a crash to date. (Sound of rapping on wood). Luke will receive its first F-35 soon—the 100th to come out of the factory at Lockheed Martin’s Ft. Worth, Tex., plant.
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.