The first foreign military sales F-35 arrived at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona on Tuesday, marking a milestone for the international portion of the fifth-generation fighter program.
Japan took ownership of its first aircraft to arrive at Luke, where pilots from participating foreign militaries will train alongside U.S. F-35 pilots.
“Today is a great day for the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command, Luke AFB, the 944th Fighter Wing, and the Japanese Air Self-Defense forces,” said Col. Kurt J. Gallegos, 944 Fighter Wing commander. “We have a great team of Airmen who have worked hard to set up an outstanding training program and are ready to train our FMS counterparts.”
The aircraft was welcomed by a joint delegation from the 944 FW, 56th Fighter Wing, Lockheed Martin [LMT], and Japanese staff.
“Today I am thrilled for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Team Luke,” said Lt. Col. Sean Holahan, 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 commander. “The arrival of Japan’s first F-35A marks another important milestone in the steadfast relationship between our two nations, and the beginning of training for an elite cadre of JASDF fighter pilots and maintainers. We put an incredible amount of thought and effort into building the world’s first F-35 Foreign Military Sales training program from the ground up. To see Japan’s first jet on our flightline, surrounded by the men and women who have made this mission possible, is humbling.”
Over the next several years, pilots from Japan, Israel and South Korea and from partner nations Australia, Italy, Norway, Turkey, Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada will train at Luke. In addition to the FMS training mission, Luke is scheduled to have six fighter squadrons and 144 F-35s.
“This is such an important time in our wing’s history as we pick up the mission to train all FMS F-35 pilots,” said Gallegos. “It’s been almost 10 years since our wing has seen aircraft on our flightline. It is an amazing feeling to look outside and see the F-35s out there and know that we are playing such an important and critical role as we build relationships that will enhance our future partnership.”