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Harry Bonsall Sr. Park, Glendale Arizona Guide Glendale MAP, Glendale

Glendale — Luke Air Force Base
Arizona Aviation Museum Guide

Luke Air Force Base ¹
Glendale, Arizona

Overview - Luke AFB ³

  • Luke AFB
  • Type: Air Force Base
  • Coordinates: 33&dwg;32'06"N 112°22'59"W
  • Built: 1940
  • In use: 1941-Present
  • Controlled by: United States Air Force
  • Garrison: 56th Fighter Wing (USAF)
  • Elevation AMSL: 1,085 ft (331 m)

Luke Air Force Base (IATA: LUF, ICAO: KLUF, FAA LID: LUF) is a United States Air Force base located seven miles (11 km) west of the central business district of Glendale, in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. It is also about 15 miles (24 km) west of Phoenix, Arizona.

Luke AFB is a major training base of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), training pilots in the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. On 31 March 2011 it was announced that the General Dynamics F-35 Lightning II would replace the F-16 as the primary training aircraft at Luke, although the date of deployment of the new aircraft to Luke and reorganization plans were not announced.

Luke Air Force Base is an active-duty General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon training base with 170 F-16's assigned. The host command at Luke is the 56th Fighter Wing (56 FW), under Air Education and Training Command's 19th Air Force.

The 56th FW is composed of four groups, 27 squadrons, including six training squadrons. There are several tenant units on base, including the 944th Fighter Wing, assigned to 10th Air Force and the Air Force Reserve. The 56th Fighter Wing also trains more than 700 maintenance technicians each year.

The base population includes about 7,500 military members and 15,000 family members. With about 80,000 retired military members living in greater Phoenix, the base services a total population of more than 100,000 people.

An integral part of Luke's F-16 fighter pilot training mission is the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range. The range consists of 1,900,000 acres (7,700 km²) of relatively undisturbed Sonoran Desert southwest of Luke Air Force Base between Yuma and Tucson south of Interstate 8. Overhead are 57,000 cubic miles (240,000 km³) of airspace where pilots practice air-to-air maneuvers and engage simulated battlefield targets on the ground. Roughly the size of Connecticut, the immense size of the complex allows for simultaneous training activities on nine air-to-ground and two air-to-air ranges. The Luke Air Force Base Range Management Office manages the eastern range activities and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma oversees operations on the western portion.

In addition to flying and maintaining the F-16, Luke Airmen also deploy to support on-going operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and to combatant commanders in other locations around the world. In 2004, more than 900 Luke Airmen deployed, with most supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Units ³

The host unit, the 56th Fighter Wing, is tasked to train F-16 fighter pilots and maintainers, while deploying mission ready warfighters. The wing graduates more than 400 F-16 pilots and 470 crew chiefs annually.


56th Operations Group (OG) (Tail Code: "LF") has operational control and responsibility for the entire fighter-training mission at Luke.

  • 21st Fighter Squadron, ("The Gamblers", Tailband: White & Red)
  • 62d Fighter Squadron, ("Spikes", Tailband: White & Blue)
  • 308th Fighter Squadron, ("Emerald Knights", Tailband: Green & White (checkerboard))
  • 309th Fighter Squadron, ("Wild Ducks", Tailband: Blue & White)
  • 310th Fighter Squadron, ("Top Hats", Tailband: Green & Yellow)
  • 425th Fighter Squadron, ("Black Widows", Tailband: Red & Black)

56th Maintenance Group (MXG) provides aircraft maintenance on more than 170 General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons for the Air Force's only active duty F-16 Fighting Falcon training wing.

56th Mission Support Group (MSG) sustains the F-16 Fighting Falcon, provides for the community, and delivers responsive combat support.

56th Medical Group (MDG) is an outpatient only Medical Treatment Facility, which serves more than 84,000 beneficiaries in the Phoenix area.

Tenant Units:

607th Air Control Squadron

944th Fighter Wing is an adjunct Air Force Reserve wing to the 56th FW that trains Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots for reserve duty.

  • 69th Fighter Squadron ("Werewolves", Tailband: Black)

History ³

Luke Air Force Base was named after Second Lieutenant Frank Luke (1897 - 1918). Lt. Luke is a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient and the second United States ace in World War I.

Born in Phoenix in 1897, the "Arizona Balloon Buster" scored 18 aerial victories during World War I (14 of these German observation balloons) in the skies over France. Lieutenant Luke was shot down near Petain, France, on 29 Sep 1918, after he had destroyed three enemy balloons. Surviving the crash of his SPAD, Lieutenant Luke drew two pistols and fired on German soldiers, killing several of them before he was killed.

Luke Field, Oahu, Hawaii Territory (now the Naval Air Station Ford Island) was previously named in his honor.

Origins ³

In 1940, the U.S. Army sent a representative to Arizona to choose a site for an Army Air Corps training field for advanced training in conventional fighter aircraft. The city of Phoenix bought 1,440 acres (5.8 km²) of land which they leased to the government at $1 a year effective March 24, 1941. On March 29, 1941, the Del. E. Webb Construction Co. began excavation for the first building at what was known then as Litchfield Park Air Base. Another base known as Luke Field, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, released its name so the Arizona base could be called Luke Field. Advanced flight training in the North American AT-6 Texan began at Luke in June that same year. The first class of 45 students, Class 41F, arrived June 6, 1941 to begin advanced flight training in the North American AT-6 Texan, although a few essential buildings had been completed. Flying out of Sky Harbor Airport until the Luke runways were ready, pilots received 10 weeks of instruction and the first class graduated August 15, 1941. Then-Captain Barry Goldwater served as director of ground training the following year.

World War II ³

During World War II, Luke Field was the largest fighter training base in the Army Air Forces, graduating more than 12,000 fighter pilots from advanced and operational courses earning the nickname, “Home of the Fighter Pilot.” The base was under the control of the 37th Flying Training Wing (Advanced Single-Engine), Western Flying Training Command, AAF Flying Training Command. During the years of World War II, more than 17,000 pilots trained at Luke Field, making it the largest single engine advanced flying training school in the U.S. More than a million hours of flying were logged, primarily in the North American AT-6 Texan, along with some transitioning to Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters and later the North American P-51 Mustang and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

Although continually modified during the war years, the course of advanced flight training at Luke averaged about 10 weeks and included both flight training and ground school. Approximately 60 hours of flying instruction covered formation flying, navigation, and instrument flying, as well as a bit of aerial acrobatics. About 20 additional hours of flight practice concentrated on aerial and gunnery training.

Ground school, or classroom training for the advanced flying course, varied from about 100 to 130 hours and was intermingled with flight time in the aircraft. Cadets flew in the morning and attended ground school in the afternoons, or flew training missions in the afternoon after a morning of ground school. At the peak of the training program at Luke, some students were required to attend night classes. Ground school included instruction in navigation, flight planning, radio equipment, maintenance, and weather.

By February 7, 1944, pilots at Luke had achieved a million hours of flying time. A World War II film A Guy Named Joe included some footage filmed at Luke. By 1946, however, the number of pilots trained dropped to 299 and the base was deactivated November 30 that year.

United States Air Force ³

Air Training Command

Soon after combat developed in Korea, Luke field was reactivated on February 1, 1951 as Luke Air Force Base, part of the Air Training Command (ATC) under the reorganized United States Air Force. A steady pipeline of trained bomber-escort pilots was needed by Strategic Air Command, and the mission of Luke AFB was to augment the jet fighter combat crew training in operation at Nellis AFB. The school at Luke was designated by ATC as the USAF Air Crew School (Fighter Bomber/Escort).

The program was to be conducted by the Federalized Michigan Air National Guard 127th Fighter Group, which had transferred from Continental Air Command to ATC, effective 10 February. The wing moved from Romulus Airport, Michigan, to Luke on 23 February, and on 1 March ATC established the USAF Air Crew School (Fighter-Bomber/Escort) at Luke. Fighter-bomber training began on 1 March 1951 in the North American F-51 Mustang, being replaced by early-model Republic F-84C Thunderjets.

Effective 5 March, the 127th was redesignated as the 127th Pilot Training Wing. On 1 November 1952, the active-duty 3600th Flying Training Wing (Fighter) replaced the Air National Guardsmen. ATC flying training squadrons at Luke included:

  • 3601st Fighter Interceptor (later Combat Crew Training) Squadron, 1 November 1952-31 December 1957
  • 3602d Fighter Interceptor (later Combat Crew Training) Squadron, 20 November 1952-31 December 1957
  • 3603d Fighter Interceptor (later Combat Crew Training) Squadron, 20 November 1952-31 December 1957
  • 3604th Fighter Interceptor (later Combat Crew Training) Squadron, 20 November 1952-31 December 1957

The 3600th FTW became the dedicated training organization for both USAF and NATO pilots in the Republic F-84 Thunderjet. The Republic F-84D Thunderjet began having electrical problems with the hot, dry Arizona air which dried out the aircraft's electrical insulation. They were replaced by Republic F-84E, and shortly afterwards to the Republic F-84G which was then in use by SAC. In October 1954, ATC re-designated the 3600th as a Combat Crew Training Wing to describe its mission better.

In January 1954, the swept-wing Republic F-84F Thunderstreak began to arrive, and three additional dedicated squadrons were activated:

  • 3605th Fighter Interceptor (later Combat Crew Training) Squadron, 12 May 1954-31 December 1957
  • 3606th Fighter Interceptor (later Combat Crew Training) Squadron, 12 May 1954-13 October 1954; Re-designated 3607th Combat Crew Training Squadron, 20 October 1954-10 June 1957
  • 3608th Fighter Interceptor (later Combat Crew Training) Squadron, 12 May 1954-31 December 1957

The Republic F-84F Thunderstreak replaced the straight-winged earlier models in the original four squadrons by the end of 1956, giving the wing seven squadrons of twenty-one aircraft each, or about 150 aircraft. Thirty more were received in 1957 as some of the older production blocks were transferred to Air National Guard units or to reclamation at Davis-Monthan AFB.

For several years, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project at Sandia Base, New Mexico, had provided all atomic, biological, and chemical (ABC) warfare training for the Air Force. Beginning in October 1954, ATC added ABC instruction to its fighter pilot programs at Luke and Nellis. In addition, ATC established six general ABC courses to train aircrews already in the field, using mobile training teams.

Formation of the USAF Thunderbirds

On 25 May 1953 the 3600th Air Demonstration Team was officially organized and established at Luke, still officially carrying this designation, now known as the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. At Luke, the squadron initially operated Republic F-84G Thunderjets, as the aircraft had to be able to show how good training made a typical aircraft easy to handle. The aircraft had to be stable for maneuvers in formation, reliable enough to meet show schedules, rugged for the demonstration team. In addition, the Republic F-84G Thunderjet was the first fighter in the Air Force with mid-air refueling capability. To convert the aircraft from combat to demonstration, technicians removed the guns and plugged the gun ports.

In 1955, the Air Force selected the swept-wing Republic F-84F Thunderstreak as their second aircraft. The Thunderstreak was modified for the team by adding smoke tanks for the first time, and red, white, and blue drag chutes. In addition, the extreme heat from the lead aircraft, 1,500°F (820°C), required moving the slot's radio antenna from the jet's fin. For the first time, a solo was added to the diamond displays, increasing the show time to 19 minutes. The unit was reassigned to Nellis AFB, Nevada on 23 June 1956.

Tactical Air Command

North American F-100 Super Sabre era

By the end of 1957, ATC basing structure had changed considerably as the result of tactical commitments, decreased student load, and fund shortages. During 1958 ATC discontinued its Flying Training and Technical Training Air Force. As a result, Luke AFB was transferred to Tactical Air Command. This reassignment came about as the result of a USAF-directed study of the feasibility of putting combat crew training under the appropriate zone of interior operational commands.

With the transfer to TAC, the ATC 3600th FTW was re-designated as the 4510th Combat Crew Training Wing, and flying training at Luke was changed to the North American F-100 Super Sabre. North American F-100 Super Sabre training squadrons were:

  • 4511th Combat Crew Training Squadron, 1 January 1958-1 October 1964 (Formerly ATC 3601st CCTW)
  • 4512th Combat Crew Training Squadron, 1 January 1958-15 October 1969 (Formerly ATC 3602d CCTW)
  • 4513th Combat Crew Training Squadron, 1 January 1958-1 November 1958 (Formerly ATC 3603d CCTW)
  • 4514th Combat Crew Training Squadron, 1 January 1958-15 December 1969 (Formerly ATC 3604th CCTW)
  • 4515th Combat Crew Training Squadron, 1 January 1958-18 January 1970 (Formerly ATC 3605th CCTW)
  • 4516th Combat Crew Training Squadron, 1 January 1958-1 April 1970 (Formerly ATC 3608th CCTW)

During the 1960s, thousands of American fighter pilots left Luke to carve their niche in the annals of Air Force history in the skies over Vietnam in the North American F-100 Super Sabre. In July 1968, the first "LA" tail codes were placed on the tails of Luke-based aircraft.

58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing - McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II era

The 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing replaced the provisional 4510th CCTW on 15 October 1969. Although Luke remained under the jurisdiction of Tactical Air Command, the HQ USAF-controlled (AFCON) 58th TFTW gave the wing at Luke a permanent lineage and history that the TAC provisional wing could not carry. The provisional squadrons of the 4510th were re-designated as follows:

  • 310th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, (Formerly 4514th CCTS)
  • 311th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, (Formerly 4515th CCTS)
  • 425th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, (GSU at Williams AFB, Arizona)
  • 426th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, (Formerly 4515th CCTS)
  • 550th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, (Formerly 4516th CCTS)
  • 69th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, (formerly 4518th CCTS) (F-104G West German training Squadron)*
  • 418th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, (formerly 4519th CCTS) (F-104G West German training Squadron)*
  • * Assigned to the 58th TFTW with the inactivation of the 4540th Combat Crew Training Group

Upon activation of the 310th TFTS, the squadron began receiving new LTV A-7D Corsair II ground attack aircraft from Ling-Temco-Vought, with a mission to train USAF pilots in the new aircraft. It's North American F-100 Super Sabres were reassigned to other squadrons which flew the North American F-100 Super Sabres of the 4510th CCTS. The 310th TFTS sent it's LTV A-7D Corsair II's to the 333d TFS at D-M in July 1971, and became an McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II RTU.

The 425th TFTS was assigned to the 58th as a Geographically Separated Unit in 1969, assigned to Williams AFB. The squadron was established in December 1963 as the 4441st CCTS, with a mission to train South Vietnamese Air Force pilots on the Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter. The Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter training continued at Williams after the end of the Vietnam War, becoming a squadron to train Military Assistance Program (MAP) pilots from over 20 nations on the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter. It was discontinued in 1989 and the 425th was inactivated.

In the summer of 1971, the 58th TFTW received McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom IIs, and the wing assumed the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II pilot training role that was formerly done by the 4453d CCTW at Davis-Monthan AFB, when D-M was converted to an operational LTV A-7D Corsair II base by the arrival of the 355th TFW from Takhli RTAFB, Thailand.

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle era

In November 1974, the Air Force's newest air superiority fighter, the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, came to Luke. To accommodate the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, the 555th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron was activated. The early McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagles, however, were quite troublesome, with engine problems limiting their effectiveness and also their availability.

It was not until June 1976 that a second McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle training squadron was established, with the 4461st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron sanding up on 23 June. The assets of the 4461st TFTS were re-designated as: 461st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron: 1 July 1977. The 550th TFTS traded in its McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs in August 1977 becoming the third McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle training squadron. The McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagles, which remained troublesome throughout the 1970s, were replaced in 1982 with the updated McDonnell Douglas F-15D Eagle.

On 25 August 1979, the 405th Tactical Training Wing was activated at Luke AFB, Arizona by Tactical Air Command to consolidate the Donald Douglas F-15 Eagle Replacement Training Unit (RTU) operations. It took over the 425th, 461st 550th and 555th Tactical Fighter Training Squadrons.

The 426th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron converted from McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II to McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle training in January 1981 specifically to support the TAC Air Defense Command (ADTAC) training mission inherited from the inactivated Aerospace Defense Command which was merged into TAC. On 19 November 1990, the 555th TFTS changed its course from air superiority combat training with the Eagle to air defense interceptor training with the McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle when TAC began assigning McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles to interceptor duty, the 426th being inactivated.

The 461st TFTS received first McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle, July, 1988, and the 550th TFTS became the second McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle training squadron in March 1989.

On 1 October 1991, due to the implementation of the Objective Wing at Luke and the "One base, one wing" policy, the 405th TTW was shut down and the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles were reassigned back to the 58th TTW.

In 1993, 1st Lt. Jeannie M. Flynn became the first female to complete training in the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle at Luke. After earning a Master's Degree in Aerospace Engineering from Stanford University, she graduated first in her UPT class at Laughlin AFB in December 1992, and chose the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle after Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak opened the door for women to fly combat aircraft.

General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon era

The 310th and 311th TFTS retained their McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom IIs until April 1982, ending the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II era at Luke, receiving General Dynamics F-16A Block 1 Fighting Falcons in November 1982 and April 1983. Luke-based General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons began carrying tail codes "LF". 310th TFTS officially began training fighter pilots 2 February 1983.

  • 312th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, activated on 1 October 1984, First F-16C squadron in the Air Force
  • 314th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, activated on 1 October 1986, Second F-16C squadron in the Air Force

In 1990 Luke AFB was placed on the National Priorities List, often called the Superfund list in 1990. After many years of cleanup and remediation, on 22 April 2002 became the first Air Force base to be removed from the list, after satisfying the requirement to remove pollution dating back as far as World War II.

58th Operations Group

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s brought significant changes to the base. On 1 October 1991, the 58th Tactical Training Wing adopted the Air Force Objective Organization Plan, and was re-designated simply as the 58th Fighter Wing (58 FW). All operational fighter training squadrons were reassigned to the new 58th Operations Group (58 OG). Training units also re-designated as "Fighter Squadrons". Units assigned to the 58 OG were:

  • 310th Fighter Squadron, F-16C/D Fighting Falcon
  • 311th Fighter Squadron, F-16C/D Fighting Falcon
  • 312th Fighter Squadron, Inactivated, aircraft to 310th, 311th, 314th FS.
  • 314th Fighter Squadron, F-16C/D Fighting Falcon
  • 461st Fighter Squadron, F-15E Strike Eagle (reassigned back from 405th FW, 1 October 1991)
  • 550th Fighter Squadron, F-15E Strike Eagle (reassigned back from 405th FW, 1 October 1991)
  • 555th Fighter Squadron, F-15C/D Eagle (reassigned back from 405th FW, 1 October 1991)

In 1991, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission ordered that all flightline activities cease at MacDill AFB by 1993. The host unit at MacDill AFB, the 56th Fighter Wing, would move it's General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon training to Luke AFB, and Luke would be an exclusive General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon training base. The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles would be reassigned to Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina in order to accommodate additional General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon training at Luke.

In addition, the 58th Fighter Wing would be inactivated and moved to Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, with the historical senior 56th FW taking over all assets at Luke. At Kirtland, the wing would be re designated as the 58th Special Operations Wing, leaving all aircraft and equipment at Luke, and be reassigned to Air Force Special Operations Command, replacing the Air Training Command 542d Crew Training Wing.

On 1 June 1992, Tactical Air Command was inactivated, and the new Air Combat Command (ACC) replaced it, assuming jurisdiction of Luke AFB.

On 30 December 1992, the 425th Fighter Squadron was activated at Luke AFB. The mission of the 425th was to provide advanced weapons and tactics continuation for Republic of Singapore Air Force's General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots and maintenance personnel. Aircraft had already arrived for the squadron in October and shortly after in the new year pilot training began in January 1993.

Air Education and Training Command

On 1 April 1994, after 24 years at Luke AFB, the 58th Fighter Wing was replaced by the 56th Fighter Wing (56 FW) as part of the Air Force Heritage Program. With the reassignment, jurisdiction of Luke AFB was transferred to Air Education and Training Command (AETC), Nineteenth Air Force (19 AF) as a result of the Air Force deciding to consolidate all Air Force training programs under AETC. The 56th Operations Group assumed control over all operational fighter squadrons.

The transfer of Luke to Air Education and Training Command gave the command front-line aircraft, bases and facilities that could be used for realistic operational training. With the return of AETC to Luke, it was possible to produce a task-certified or more mission ready apprentice, operational units could reduce the amount of on-the-job training provided to new airmen.

Within a year, the wing realignment to make the 56 OG an exclusive General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon group took place. The 555th Fighter Squadron was reassigned to USAFE on 25 March 1994 as part of a realignment of Aviano AB, Italy; it's McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagles being sent to Tyndall AFB, Florida where McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle air defense interceptor training was being consolidated under First Air Force. The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle squadrons (461st, 550th) were also inactivated, with their McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagles being sent to Seymour Johnson AFB under the 4th Fighter Wing.

The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle training ended with the last "LA" tail coded F-15 (Luke Arizona) leaving on 26 September 1995 when the 550th Fighter Squadron inactivated, 21 years after the first McDonnell Douglas TF-15A Eagle arrived at Luke.

With the transfer of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles, additional General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon training units were assigned to the 56 OG, all tail-coded "LF" (Luke Falcons):

  • 61st Fighter Squadron, 1 April 1994 (formerly at MacDill AFB)
  • 62d Fighter Squadron, 18 March 1994 (formerly at MacDill AFB)
  • 63d Fighter Squadron, 1 April 1994 (formerly at MacDill AFB)
  • 308th Fighter Squadron, re-assigned from 58th OG
  • 309th Fighter Squadron, re-assigned from 58th OG
  • 310th Fighter Squadron, re-assigned from 58th OG
  • 425th Fighter Squadron, re-assigned from 58th OG (Joint USAF-RSAF unit)

The 21st Fighter Squadron was activated on 8 August 1996 to train Republic of China Air Force F-16A/B crews at Luke AFB. Empty hangars were refurbished and aircrews were pulled in from other units on base. By January 1997 several ROCAF General Dynamics F-16A/B Block 20 Fighting Falcons had been delivered and the first training flights began for their crews. Despite being A/B models, the aircraft were new construction from General Dynamics, with modern avionics and engines, and were considered to be more advanced than the General Dynamics F-16C/D Fighting Falcons being flown from Luke AFB. The aircraft carry USAF markings and serial numbers, also the "LF" tail code.

On 20 September 1999, a General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon crashed at Luke AFB, marking the 56th Fighter Wing's seventh Class A mishap in FY99. In all cases, the pilots ejected safely. Engine problems caused most of the mishaps. The 56th Fighter Wing commander, Brig. Gen. John Barry, grounded the wing's General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons after the second mishap. Maintenance personnel discovered that engine augmenter ducts had failed in both cases. They developed a new inspection procedure to identify cracks, which was subsequently used throughout the Air Force. A manufacturing defect in turbine blades was responsible for many of the mishaps, and General Barry grounded the fleet a second time to allow maintainers to upgrade the turbine blades, which improved safety.

When 1st Lt. Joshua Padgett completed the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon basic course on 8 March 2000, he became the 50,000th fighter pilot to graduate from Luke AFB, Arizona, since the Army Air Forces started training there in July 1941.

After the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, Luke suspended routine flying training operations, as the Federal Aviation Administration shut down the nation's airways to all but select military flights. Aircraft of the 56th Fighter Wing were deployed to fly Combat Air Patrols over New York City and Washington, D.C. in the immediate aftermath of the attacks in support of Operation Noble Eagle. Although the 56th Fighter Wing does not deploy aircraft to United States Air Forces Central Command Expeditionary units as part of the Global War on Terrorism, Luke Airmen routinely deploy to USAFCENT in AEF deployment cycles, engaging in combat in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF); Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and other expeditionary operations as tasked.

In 2002 the 56th Fighter Wing, became responsible for the nearby Barry M. Goldwater Training Range, became concerned that urban development near the base would curtail flying training if left unchecked. In addition, the Munitions Storage Area (MSA) stood outside of the base compound, adding a burden to the Security Forces Squadron. In October 2002, Senator John McCain of Arizona shepherded a MILCON funding insert of $13 million to purchase 273 acres (1.10 km²) needed to incorporate the MSA into the base perimeter and to acquire additional land in order to preserve access to the Goldwater Range.

BRAC 2005 directed that the older General Dynamics F-16 Block 25 Fighting Falcons be sent to Air National Guard units, this change reduced the number of fighter squadrons, with the 61st and 63d Fighter Squadrons inactivating in 2009 and 2010.

Air Defense Command

In 1959 Air Defense Command established a Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) Data Center (DC-21) at Luke AFB. The SAGE system was a network linking Air Force (and later FAA) General Surveillance Radar stations into a centralized center for Air Defense, intended to provide early warning and response for a Soviet nuclear attack. It was initially under the Phoenix Air Defense Sector (PhADS), established on 15 June 1959. PhADS was inactivated on 1 April 1966, and re-designated as the 27th Air Division. DC-21 with its AN/FSQ-7 computer remained under the 27th AD until 19 November 1969 it was inactivated and its assets absorbed by the 26th Air Division. DC-21 was inactivated on 9 December 1983 when technology advances made SAGE obsolete.

Air Force Reserve

Air Force Reserve training began at Luke AFB in 1960 with the activation of the 302d Air Rescue Squadron. The 302d had a distinguished heritage and lineage, being formed as the 302d Fighter Squadron, one of four African-American fighter squadrons to enter combat during World War II. It saw combat in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) and Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) from 17 February 1944-20 February 1945.

For many years the 302d operated a variety of Air Rescue helicopters from the base, training for and performing search and rescue (SAR) missions, in addition to some medical air evacuation missions. In 1974, its mission changed to training for a combat SAR role, while continuing to perform some search and rescue.

The squadron's mission changed again, in 1987, to a fighter role as the 302d Tactical Fighter Squadron, being assigned to the AFRES 944th Fighter Wing. The 302d TFS was equipped with block 25/32 F-16C Fighting Falcons, carrying tail code "LR". The 302d TFS trained for counterair, interdiction, and close air support missions. It deployed several times since late 1992 to Turkey to help enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq and to Italy to support UN air operations in the Balkans, The 302d FS was moved to Holloman AFB, New Mexico and converted to Lockheed-Martin F-22A Raptors on 2 October 2007.

The 69th Fighter Squadron was activated at Luke on 1 Feb 2010, equipped with Block 42 F-16C Fighting Falcons, tail code "LF", 69th FS carrying a black tail band. The 69th had formerly been assigned to Luke as an active-duty squadron from 1969-1983, flying Lockheed F-104G Starfighters training pilots from the West German Luftwaffe.

Luftwaffe at Luke AFB

From 1957 to 1965 830 pilots from the German Luftwaffe were trained on the Republic F-84 Thunderjet at Luke AFB under Air Training Command. Since Northern European weather and operational restrictions placed severe limitations on the amount of training, Luke AFB was chosen, where flying conditions were ideal for most of the time.

On 4 April 1963 the USAF and the Federal Republic of Germany signed contracts for a highly unique pilot training program. One agreement called for undergraduate pilot training for West German Air Force (GAF) and West German Navy (GN) students in Cessna T-37 Tweet and Northrop T-38 Talon jet aircraft at Williams AFB, Arizona. The second agreement provided for advanced fighter training in the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter at Luke AFB. The two programs were interrelated. Graduates of the basic flight training at Williams were programmed for the advanced training at Luke, resulting in an almost two-year tour of duty in the United States for the young German pilots. The advanced training at Luke was the unique aspect of the program.

The host 4510th Combat Crew Training Wing (CCTW) at Luke was tasked with providing the advanced flying training. On 20 February 1964, the 4540th Combat Crew Training Group (CCTG) was organized and designated to conduct GAF training at Luke. The group was activated on 1 April. Prior to designating the 4540th CCTG, the 4518th Combat Crew Training Squadron was activated on March 1, 1964 and was reassigned to the 4540th CCTG upon the later's activation. A second squadron, the 4519th Combat Crew Training Squadron, was assigned to the group, effective 1 July 1964. The German unit was named “2. Deutsche Luftwaffen-Ausbildungsstaffel F-104 USA (2. DtLwAusbStff F-104 USA)“ (2nd German Air Force Training Squadron F-104 USA). Although remaining German property, the Starfighters carried USAF insignia and were assigned USAF serial numbers.

By mid July 1964, 23 Lockheed TF-104G Starfighters and 12 Lockheed F-104G Starfighters were assigned to Luke. On 26 August 1964 a total of 14 USAF Lockheed F-104 Starfighter instructor pilots graduated in the second class conducted at Luke. With a sufficient number of aircraft and instructor pilots, preparations were on target to receive the first advanced training class scheduled for October 1964. Aircraft inventories at Luke peaked in 1967 and 1968. In 1967, 100 aircraft were assigned, 62 Lockheed F-104G Starfighters and 38 Lockheed TF-104G Starfighters. The total increased to 102 in 1968, 61 Lockheed F-104G Starfighter models and 41 Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter models.

Major changes occurred in organization on 1 October 1969 when the 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing (TFTW) was activated, replacing the 4510th CCTW as the host unit at Luke. Concurrently, the 69th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron and the 418th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron were activated as Lockheed F-104 Starfighter training units, replacing the 4518th CCTS and 4519th CCTS.

By 1975, a decrease in training requirements was accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the fleet size. The two squadrons were consolidated in 1976 with the 418th TFTS inactivating on 1 October 1976. Also a storage program was started to preserve the lifespan of the aircraft. As of 30 September 1975 some 13 aircraft were in flyable storage. Training of West German Air Force pilots in the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter continued until late 1982. The Germans flew more than 900 Starfighters totaling an excess of 269,750 hours and produced 1,868 Lockheed F-104 Starfighter pilots. The 69th TFTS inactivated on 16 March 1983.

NATO F-104 Pilot Training

A third Lockheed F-104G Starfighter squadron at Luke, the 4443d Combat Crew Training Squadron, differed from the West German squadrons in that it was associated with the Military Assistance Program (MAP) with students from NATO and other friendly nations being trained in the Starfighter. On 22 May 1964, TAC relieved the 4443d CCTS from its assignment to the 831st Air Division at George AFB, California, and reassigned it to the 4540th CCTG, effective 1 August 1964. The move consolidated all Lockheed F-104 Starfighter training at one location. The Lockheed F-104 Starfighters that were purchased with MAP funds and were assigned USAF serial numbers for record-keeping purposes although they never carried USAF insignia. On 15 June 1969 the 4443rd CCTS was inactivated.

Previous Names

  • Litchfield Park Air Base, c. 15 February 1941
  • Luke Field, 6 June 1941
  • Luke Air Force Base, 10 June 1949

Major Commands to which assigned

  • West Coast Air Corps Training Center, 3 July 1941 - 23 January 1942
  • Air Corps Flying Training Command, 23 January 1942 - 15 March 1942
  • AAF Flying Training Command, 15 March 1942 - 31 July 1943
  • AAF Training Command, 31 July 1943 - 1 July 1946
  • Air Training Command, 1 July 1946 -December 1946, 1 January 1951 - 1 July 1958
  • Tactical Air Command, 1 July 1958- 1 June 1992
  • Air Combat Command, 1 June 1992 - 1 July 1993
  • Air Education and Training Command, 1 July 1993-present

The facility was placed on temporary reduced activity status, 6 July 1946; temporarily inactivated, 31 October 1946. It became a sub-installation of Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, 3 Dec 1946-5 Mar 1951. It was removed from inactive status, placed on active status, 1 January 1951.

Major Units Assigned

  • Air Corps Advanced Flying School
    Re-designated Army Air Forces Advanced Flying School
    Re-designated Army Air Forces Pilot School (Advanced Single-Engine), 20 May 1941-6 July 1946 90th Air Base Group, 1 August 1941-19 May 1942
  • 3003d Army Air Force Base Unit, 1 May 1944-31 October 1945
  • 3028th Army Air Force Base Unit, 1 May 1944-30 November 1946
  • 408th Army Air Force Base Unit, 1 October 1946-1 March 1947
  • 127th Fighter (later Training) Group, 23 February 1951-1 November 1952
  • USAF Air Crew School
    Re-designated USAF Combat Crew Training School, 1 March 1951-1 November 1943 4510th Combat Support Group, 1 November 1952-15 October 1969
  • 4510th Combat Crew Training Group, 1 November 1952-1 August 1963
  • 4510th Combat Crew Training Wing, 1 November 1952-15 October 1969
  • 3600th Air Demonstration Flight, 25 May 1953-23 June 1956
  • Phoenix Air Defense Sector, 15 June 1959
    Re-designated: 27th Air Division, 1 April 1966
    Re-designated: 26th Air Division, 19 November 1969-31 August 1983
  • 4629th Air Defense Squadron (SAGE)*, 1 July 1972
    Re-designated 26th Air Defense Squadron (SAGE)*, 1 January 1975-9 December 1983 58th Tactical Training Wing, 15 October 1969-1 April 1994
  • 405th Tactical Training Wing, 29 August 1979-1 October 1991
  • 832d Air Division, 1 December 1980-1 October 1991
  • 56th Fighter Wing, 1 April 1994-present
  • Note: * Operated DC-21 ADCOM/ADTAC SAGE blockhouse

Static Aircraft Displays 3,4

Luke AFB has ten aircraft on static display. There are three separate static displays locations on the base: (1) the Luke AFB Air Park with 8 aircraft; (2) the General Dynamics F-16A Block 15C Fighting Falcon static display; and (3) “The Tuskegee Airmen - Red Tail” F-16C Block 32D Fighting Falcon static display. Unfortunately, the display areas on the base are not open to the general public.

Display Aircraft Photos 4

A special thanks to a Friend in Arizona (AFIA) for supplying us with the following photos of Luke AFB's ten display aircraft.

Luke AFB Air Park

Luke Air Force Base SPAD XIII Memorial (Photos by AFIA)

North American AT-6G (AT-6C-NT) Texan (AF 42-3984), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

North American F-86F-25-NH Sabre (AF 52-5323 as 52-5430), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

Republic F-84F-45-RE Thunderstreak (AF 52-6782 as 52-6779 USAF Thunderbird), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

North American F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre (AF 53-1716), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

Lockheed F-104C-5-LO Starfighter (AF 56-0892 as 51-3243), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

Lockheed T-33A-5-LO Shooting Star (AF 58-0495 as 58-0745), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

McDonnell Douglas F-4E-35-MC Phantom II (AF 67-0327), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

McDonnell Douglas F-15B-7-MC Eagle (AF 73-0108), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon Display

General Dynamics F-16A Block 15C Fighting Falcon (AF 81-0687), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

"The Tuskegee Airmen - Red Tail" Memorial

General Dynamics F-16C Block 32D Fighting Falcon (AF 86-0291), Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)

Special Thanks

A very special thanks to A Friend in Arizona (AFIA) for providing us with photos of the display aircraft at Luke AFB!


  1. Luke Air Force Base, website
  2. Google Earth Satellite Images
  3. Wikipedia, Luke Air Force Base
  4. Photos: A Friend in Arizona (AFIA), 2/27/2010

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