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Luke Conducts First F-35 Training Deployment

Luke AFB, Arizona // April 17, 2015

The 56th Fighter Wing performed the first F-35 training deployment from Luke Air Force Base April 4 through 18, sending 10 aircraft to Nellis AFB, Nevada, for two weeks to see how well the team could conduct operations elsewhere.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann

The 10 aircraft comprise half of Luke's current fleet of F-35 Lightning IIs.

"Operating away from Luke has been a huge success for the wing, Team Nellis and the F-35 program in general," said Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander. "We are learning lessons that will be hugely important for our pilots and maintainers across the F-35 program."

Learning whether or not a team of F-35s can operate on the road is important as the Air Force looks to reach Initial Operational Capability during the fall of 2016. To reach IOC, a squadron must have 12 or more aircraft and Airmen trained and equipped to conduct basic interdiction, close air support and limited suppression and destruction of enemy air defense operations in a contested environment.

"Though Luke is a training base, we will continue to push the training here to be as close to the operational side as we can," Pleus said. "This helps us learn to be more efficient, which will set future operational bases up for success."

Luke's 56th FW will provide the training and cadre of pilots and maintainers to fill operational bases around the world.

"The objective of this event was to integrate F-35 pilots from Nellis, Eglin and Luke Air Force Bases and operate on the Nevada Test and Training Range, while executing off-station maintenance operations," said Lt. Col. Michael Ebner, 61st Fighter Squadron commander. "The lessons learned by pilots and maintainers will lay the foundation for future training and deployment operations. The entire squadron understood the significance of this event and stepped up to the challenges that presented themselves."

The scope of the deployment was unprecedented for the Lightning II.

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