Luke Air Force Base Has a New High-Tech Resident

March 14, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)

F-16s escorted the F-35 Lightning II into Luke Air Force Base

F-16s escorted the F-35 Lightning II into Luke Air Force Base

With a thunderous roar overhead in Phoenix’s west valley, a new era has begun at Luke Air Force Base. Two F-16s escorted the newest member of Luke’s family of military jets; the first F-35 Lightning II to be based at Luke arrived March 11. “This is a day that has been a long time coming. It’s the result of many years of hard work by countless people in the military and in the community,” Col. John Hanna, 56th Operations Group commander, said at a press conference after the jet landed.

All the F-35's weapons are inside the jet, to make it more stealthy

All the F-35’s weapons are inside the jet, to make it more stealthy

This inaugural F-35 is the first of 144 jets that will be permanently placed at Luke. About 16 F-35s are slated to arrive this year and the rest over the next decade. The base has been home to the F-16 Fighting Falcons for years, but the F-16s will be slowly transitioned to other air bases to make room for the F-35s. A formal unveiling ceremony for the F-35 is to be held on March 14 with VIPs in attendance to usher in the amazing new jet to Luke.

The first F-35  to arrive at Luke Air Force Base

The first F-35 to arrive at Luke Air Force Base

Produced by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 is the most technologically sophisticated multi-role fighter ever designed. It can be utilized for multiple missions and has three variants, all unique to the branch of military it is being used in. Eventually the F-35 will replace older jets like the F-16 and the

A-10.  The F-35 is a modern marvel. Its next-generation avionics and sensors give the pilot real-time access to battlefield information with 360-degree coverage, giving it a tactical edge over any jet flying today. The fighter will be used by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corp and U.S. Navy. The F-35 is being produced using global partners and will be used by or is considered being used by 11 other countries besides the U.S.

Air-to-surface missions:

The F-35 is super stealthy and is equipped with active electronically scanned array (AESA) and can carry its weapons internally. This stealthy profile allows it to be first on the scene in a battle, going in undetected and clearing any threat so ground troops may enter.


Integrated sensors, information and weapons systems—combined with speed and maneuverability— are critical to the F-35’s air superiority. The F-35 has a lower radar cross-section which allows the pilot to see the enemy first and strike first.

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR):

The F-35’s incredible stealth features and high tech sensors allow it to fly indigence and surveillance missions. Its sensors can gather more data than any other fighter in history.

Command and Control:

The F-35s communication, sensors and information systems allow it to gather data and share it with commanders at sea, on the ground and in the air.

Electronic Attack:

Advanced electronic warfare (EW) capabilities enable the F-35 to locate and track enemy forces, jam radio frequencies and disrupt attacks. The F-35’s AESA radar has sophisticated electronic attack capabilities, including false targets, network attack, advanced jamming and algorithm-packed data streams.


The F-35B model can takeoff and land vertically

The F-35B model can takeoff and land vertically

 The F-35B has a lift fan located just behind the cockpit, which can swivel 90 degrees when in short takeoff/vertical landing mode (or Mode 4). When the F-35B is in Mode 4 the lift fan is engaged and the engine rotates downward, allowing for vertical flight.

Illustration of F-35B trust vectoring system.

Illustration of F-35B trust vectoring system. Image By: Tosaka

Three Variants of F-35s:

There will be three variants of F-35. The three include the F-35A (CTOL) used for conventional takeoff and landing, the F-35B (STOVL) used for short takeoff /vertical landing and the F-35C (CV) carrier version. All three will include the advanced systems and be able to perform the multiple roles. The U.S. Air Force and other international air forces will fly the F-35A. The F-35B will be used by the U.S. Marines and the F-35C for the U.S. Navy.

The U.S. Navy version F-35C can land and takeoff from aircraft carriers

The U.S. Navy version F-35C can land and takeoff from aircraft carriers

The F-35C will be used for aircraft carrier landing and takeoffs. It will have reinforced landing gear and foldable wings allowing it to take up less space aboard aircraft carriers. All versions of F-35s can fly at 1.6 Mach, which is approximately 1,200 mph.


Cutting Edge Helmet:

The F-35 Helmet is as technologically advanced as the jet itself. Instead of a traditional heads up display (HUD), as found in most modern military jets, the F-35 projects information to the helmet’s visor. Airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information and warnings are all projected to the helmet’s visor.

In addition, the F-35 is equipped with six infrared cameras mounted in the skin of the jet around the outside of the aircraft called  Distributed Aperture System (DAS), that project real-time imagery to the helmet, allowing the pilots to “look through” the aircraft and see all around them, giving them situational awareness like never before seen. Imagine the tactical advantages a pilot would have being able to look down at the floor and see what’s on the ground or above him or on the horizon by viewing it in the display of the visor. With the DAS the pilot gets a complete unobstructed view of the airspace and terrain all around him and all the vital information he needs right in the visor. This technology reduces the pilot’s workload and increases his responsiveness.

“Having F-35s at Luke ensures the long-term viability of our mission and safeguards the long-term presence of the base as a community partner and an economic engine in the West Valley,” Hanna said.

You can see the F-35 and other aircraft March 15 and 16 at Luke Days Open House and Air Show in Glendale, AZ.

We at Angel MedFlight are excited to share the local Phoenix airspace with this modern marvel.












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