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Goodyear Mayor co-chairs Luke AFB West Valley Council

The city of Goodyear remains front and center when it comes to being poised and prepared for the arrival of the F-35 Lightning II Fighter Jet pilot training program at Luke Air Force Base in early 2014.

But right now, members of the Luke West Valley Council – the regional group promoting the success of Luke and the economic vitality the F-35s are projected to bring to the region, are moving forward with Goodyear helping to steer more success for the future.

Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord was nominated and elected to be the incoming Co-Chair of the Luke West Valley Council during its quarterly meeting on Thursday, Dec. 19. Mayor Lord was thrilled to be elected to co-chair the group, along with Luke Air Force Base Brigadier General Michael Rothstein.

Mayor Lord succeeds El Mirage Mayor Lana Mook as co-chair to the council, which has more than 20 members.

“It’s an honor to be nominated and elected by my peers to serve on the group that represents our region,” Mayor Lord said. “Not only is the future of Luke Air Force Base vital to our city, but it is important to the region and state of Arizona and our country. Many people serving in the military or military-related jobs call Goodyear their home, and we’re proud that we were part of the partnership that was able to help secure the F-35 Fighter Jet program at Luke through strong community support.”

In her role as co-chair, Mayor Lord will lead the meetings and discussions in how to further the success of the base as it moves forward with expansion and other programs. Luke expects to see $260 million of construction over the next decade and other support businesses are expected to open with the arrival of the F-35A fighter pilot training program next year.

Luke West Valley formed in the 1980s to garner regional and community support for the importance of Luke’s success in the region. The group is comprised of Luke AFB officials, elected officials from 12 West Valley cities and Maricopa County as well as representatives from the governing bodies of Sun City and Sun City West. The meetings are also often attended by West Valley legislators and outside organizations that support and partner with Luke Air Force Base.

The Air Force has credited the strong community support as a factor that led to Luke Air Force Base being awarded the F-35 Mission by the Department of Defense.

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First F-35 Bound for Luke in Final Phase of Production

The 100th Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the first aircraft destined for Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, has entered the last stage of final assembly. This conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft, known as AF-41, is scheduled to arrive at the base next year. During final assembly, the aircraft structure is completed, and electrical and hydraulic systems are added. Additionally, these systems are tested in preparation for fuel systems checks and engine runs. The final steps prior to acceptance by the Air Force include a series of checkout flights leading to the aircraft entering the service’s F-35 fleet. AF-41 is one of 126 F-35s in various stages of production worldwide.

In June, the Air Force announced its decision to increase the number of squadrons at Luke AFB to six with 144 aircraft, which will make it the largest F-35 base worldwide.  In addition to training U.S. pilots, Luke will also serve as an F-35A International Training site. Currently, Luke’s economic impact on the state of Arizona is $2.17 Billion. With 14 F-35 suppliers in the state of Arizona, the program has an additional economic impact of $98Million.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 116,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation’s net sales for 2012 were $47.2 billion.

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Goodyear backs additional F-35 squadron at Luke

Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord was among a number of state-wide officials during the Department of Defense’s announcement of three additional squadrons to the Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II fighter jet program at Luke Air Force Base.

Since the DOD’s initial announcement that Luke AFB will be the training center for the F-35s, cities and community groups throughout the West Valley have voiced their support for the military community and Luke’s mission of remaining the premier base for fighter pilot training.

“We are very pleased that Luke Air Force Base will now be home to three additional squadrons of F-35 Fighter Jets.” Goodyear Mayor Lord said. “The support of Goodyear and the surrounding West Valley communities played a huge role in this decision and we will continue to advocate on behalf of Luke and our military families.”

“Not only is this decision good for the security of our nation, but it will also have a huge economic impact on Goodyear, the West Valley and the State of Arizona.” Mayor Lord added.

The first three F-35A squadrons are scheduled to begin arriving at Luke AFB next year. Over the next several years, Luke will operate 170 aircraft; 144 will be the F-35A while 26 F-16s will remain for foreign military training.

Goodyear is among 13 Valley and West Valley municipalities partnering in the Luke Forward campaign that generated awareness of the positive impacts the Air Force’s next generation strike fighter will bring to the state. Through that community support involving tens of thousands of citizens participating in public hearings, the DOD recognized the importance of keeping Luke as the hub for fighter pilot training.

Two brand new training facilities are currently being constructed at Luke in preparation of receiving the F-35A fighter jets. An operations building will open later this year, while the 145,000 square-foot academic center is planned to open in mid to late 2014.

“This is great news for the region,” Goodyear City Manager Brian Dalke said of the DOD’s announcement on Thursday. “We value Luke Air Force Base as a neighbor as well as the economic support the military community currently provides to our city. We welcome the expansion of F-35 program with open arms. Not only will the program be beneficial for the local economy, it will strengthen national security.”

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Luke Air Force Base Gets F-35 Mission

Glendale officials say the Department of Defense has chosen Luke Air Force Base for the new training center for F-35 fighter jets.

“The goal of our statewide initiative was to send a clear message to the decision makers in Washington D.C. that Arizona strongly supports Luke Air Force Base continuing to serve as our nation’s premier fighter pilot training facility,” said Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, co-chair of the Luke Forward campaign.

The 71-year-old base in west Glendale was competing with bases in Tucson, New Mexico and Idaho for the F-35 mission.

“Arizona’s military industry is one of the largest industries in our state, and Luke serves as the anchor,” Scruggs said. “This new F-35 training mission will bring with it decades of tremendous military value to our national security and sustainable economic benefits to our region and state. I want to thank and recognize all the elected officials and citizens of the West Valley cities and Maricopa County for standing firm in their unwavering support of Luke Air Force Base all the way through to the end of the F-35 basing process.”

The Luke Forward campaign was developed by the West Valley Partners and Fighter Country Partnership to generate awareness and support of the positive impacts the Air Force’s next generation strike fighter will bring to the state. The partners include the cities of Avondale, Buckeye, El Mirage, Gila Bend, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Phoenix, Surprise, Tolleson, Wickenburg and Youngtown, as well as Maricopa County.

Fighter Country Partnership Chairman Charley Freericks, who co-chaired the campaign with Scruggs, believes the widespread community support garnered for the F-35 by Luke Forward elevated Arizona from states in other parts of the country where the Air Force was considering placing the F-35.

“Through Luke Forward, we were able to engage nearly 10,000 residents to attend public hearings, send emails or phone Air Force representatives in support of Luke and to get 21,000 citizens from throughout the state to register their support of the F-35 at LukeForward.com,” said Freericks. “This tremendous support, from state and local officials, business partners, homeowners associations, residents, retirees and others, really made us stand out among the competition.”

The Air Force will initially place three squadrons, totaling 72 F-35s, at Luke AFB starting as early as next year to replace two of Luke’s F-16 squadrons allocated for Air Force training – keeping Luke’s ramps full, along with the 26 F-16s at Luke dedicated for foreign military training. The new F-35s will most likely arrive at Luke AFB in phases over the next couple years.

The decision ensures Luke’s 56th Fighter Wing will now be the Air Force’s F-35 pilot training  site, or “school house,” as well as continuing F-16 training for fighter pilots in the foreseeable future. The Air Force may station up to six F-35 squadrons totaling 144 aircraft at the Glendale base as F-16s are retired.

In addition to ensuring the long-term viability of Luke AFB, the F-35 training mission will also serve as an economic stimulus for the Valley’s beleaguered construction industry as the new fighter will require construction projects, facility improvements, infrastructure upgrades and other maintenance and repairs.

As a result, Luke can anticipate receiving an infusion of $100-$125 million within months from the federal government to pay for these construction-related projects. Much of this federal investment will positively impact the regional and state economies with local labor and suppliers of construction material. Nearly 3,000 construction jobs are estimated to be created in preparation of the F-35’s arrival.