Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Luke looking to become training base for F-35

PHOENIX — Luke Air Force Base is in line to get $10.4 million in federal stimulus money, which is earmarked for repairs and improvements which could help the Glendale facility become a training base for the F-35 Lightning II.

“We in the West Valley really believe the F-35 mission will be at Luke. We really truly do, so anything that’s done to keep the base in the very best condition it can be in and keep it functioning at its highest level is a good thing,” Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs said. “Those of us in the West Valley see the F-35 coming in and Luke continuing to be the premier training base that it’s been for so many years.”

Scruggs expects Luke to be that premier base for another 50 to 60 years, at least.

Luke is one of two Air Force bases being considered to be the second-tier training base for the F-35, called the Joint Strike Fighter.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that the Pentagon will end the F-22 fighter jet and White House helicopter programs but would increase production of the Joint Strike Fighter.

Meanwhile, Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field has submitted four projects for stimulus funds totaling $4.5 million.

The intent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is to stimulate the economy by creating millions of jobs and investing in infrastructure and energy efficiency.

The Department of Defense is looking at improving infrastructure through construction, facility improvements and energy-efficiency projects with the stimulus money.

“All of the projects are identified as ready for implementation,” Rusty Mitchell, Luke’s director of Community Initiatives Team, said of the base’s project list. “All of them have to do with infrastructure repair and improvements.”

In addition to infrastructure, the projects include hospitals, child-development centers and housing for troops and their families.

The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke is home to more than 185 F-16 Fighting Falcons and 27 squadrons, eight of which are F-16 fighter squadrons. The wing graduates more than 400 F-16 pilots and 470 crew chiefs annually.

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