LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona --
The F-35A Lightning II
program took another step toward initial operational capability yesterday when
two aircraft assigned to the 62nd Fighter Squadron successfully
employed four laser-guided bombs on the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
This marked the first weapons release by F-35s assigned
to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base.
"Yesterday we were able to execute one of the
primary missions of this multi-role fighter and successfully employ air to ground
weapons," said Lt. Col. Gregory Frana, 62nd Fighter Squadron commander.
"As we execute the mission of training the world's greatest F-35 pilots it
is critical we make our training as realistic as possible."
Maj. Matthew Strongin, 62nd Fighter Squadron weapons
chief, was one of two pilots who employed the GBU-12s at the range.
"The training focus at Luke has shifted,"
Strongin said. "The previous years centered on building instructor pilot cadre. We are now
focused on producing combat capable warfighters for the front-line fighter
squadrons in the Air Force and our partner nations. Dropping full-scale
munitions are a significant step forward for Luke's instructors and
This new capacity gives all of Luke's F-35 instructor and
student pilots an opportunity to experience realistic training.
"All of our instructor pilots will have the
opportunity in the coming weeks to experience weapons employment from the aircraft,"
Strongin said. "Also, every graduate will experience dropping a 500 pound bomb
before leaving here."
Luke celebrated the two year anniversary of receiving the
F-35 one day before the weapon's drop.
years ago we hadn't flown a single F-35 sortie here," Frana said. "Now we've flown more than 4,000 sorties,
trained pilots from the U.S., Australia, Italy, and Norway and are executing
training for the software that will provide the IOC for the U.S."
This mission follows the Feb. 25 employment of
laser-guided bombs by combat-coded F-35As from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill
AFB, Utah, and the March 3 employment from the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin
The 56th FW serves as the primary training facility for
the F-35A, training USAF pilots as well as pilots from our partner nations.