Lockheed Martin has delivered the Luke Air Force Base’s (AFB) first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft during a ceremony at the base in Arizona, US.
Assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing, the F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant, known as LF 5030, is the first of 144 fighters scheduled for delivery to the base.
The 56th Fighter Wing airmen will start training US Air Force (USAF) pilots and eventually international pilots destined for deployment to combat units worldwide in 2015.
Randolph Air Force Base Air Education and Training Command commander US Air Force general Robin Rand said the F-35 Lightning II represents the future of tactical aviation for the US and its allies.
"This program is built on a foundation of unprecedented international partnership that is embodied at the integrated training center at Luke AFB," Rand said.
"Together, we will train the next generation of pilots who will protect freedom at home and abroad."
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Lockheed Martin F-35 program general manager Lorraine Martin said the F-35 fighter will provide the USAF and international partners a decisive edge over its adversaries.
"Combined with the unwavering support of the communities surrounding the base, the 56th Fighter Wing will make a huge contribution to the defense of our nation for decades to come," Martin said.
The welcoming ceremony represents the delivery of the 35th F-35 to USAF and the stand-up of the eighth F-35 base.
Designed to conduct ground attack, reconnaissance and air defence missions with stealth capability, the F-35 JSF is a fifth-generation multirole fighter being developed by Lockheed in three variants.
The aircraft is expected to eventually phase out USAF’s aging F-16s and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, US Navy’s F/A-18, US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier, in addition to a range of fighters for at least nine other countries.
Image: US Air Force Undersecretary Eric Fanning delivers the keynote speech at the F-35 arrival ceremony at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, US. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.