Located west of Phoenix, Luke Air Force Base is celebrating its 75th anniversary and is home to the 56th Fighter Wing, the largest fighter wing in the world and the Air Force’s only active-duty F-16 training wing.

As part of Air Education and Training Command, and home to 23 squadrons with both F-35A Lightning II aircraft and F-16s, the 56th graduates more than 400 F-16 pilots and 300 air control professionals annually.

The wing is also responsible for three additional squadrons under the 54th Fighter Group located at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where F-16 training will move as Luke AFB transitions to become the sole pilot training center for the F-35A, the Air Force’s newest multi-role aircraft.

Additionally, the 56th Fighter Wing oversees the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field and is steward of the Barry M. Goldwater Range, a military training range spanning more than 1.7 million acres of Sonoran desert.

Critical mission elements

Ability to land and  take off in either direction at Luke Air Force Base

Ability to access Barry M. Goldwater Range

Flying practice instrument approaches at Aux 1

Ability for “touch and goes” at Gila Bend Aux Field

Access to and from Gladden/Bagdad Military

Access to statewide military training routes

Barry M. Goldwater range

Called a “national treasure” by military expert the range offers highly flexible joint service training, realistic combat replications and air-to-air and air-to-ground training. The range offers 57,000 cubic miles of airspace — roughly the size of New Jersey.

Luke senior leadership

Brig. Gen. Scott L. Pleus is the 56th Fighter Wing commander at Luke Air Force Base. Gen. Pleus commissioned in 1989 through the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He is a command pilot with more than 2,300 hours. Pleus previously commanded Luke’s 63rd Fighter Squadron, the 611th Air and Space Operations Center, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. Prior to his current assignment, he was the executive officer to the Air Force Chief of Staff at the Pentagon.

Colonel David Shoemaker, 56th Fighter Wing Vice Commander

Colonel William C. Bailey, 56th Operations Group Commander

Colonel Ricky L. Ainsworth, 56th Maintenance Group Commander

Colonel James K. Kossler. 56th Mission Support Group Commander

Colonel Maureen A. Charles, 56th Medical Group Commander

Colonel Jeffrey R. Jenssen, 54th Fighter Group Commander

Chief Master Sergeant John M. Mazza, 56th Fighter Wing Command Chief

In 2015, Luke Air Force Base:

Graduated 425 pilots

Produced 317 crew chiefs

Graduated 81 intelligence specialists

Flew 16,493 F-16 sorties and 193 F-35 sorties

Flew more than 21,579 F-16 and 287 F-35 flying hours

Deployed 323 Airmen

Volunteered 100,000 hours in community

Luke’s economic impact

Direct: $653 million

Indirect: $1.1 billion

Induced: $333 million

Total economic impact in Arizona: $2.17 billion


Luke’s next Air Show is Apr. 2-3, 2016. Luke’s F-35s and F-16s will be featured.

The F-35 program took its first step forward integrating partner nations with the arrival of the first Australian F-35 Dec. 18, 2014, at Luke. Almost a year later, the next big international step for the program came when two Italian pilots completed their first flight in an F-35 on Nov. 5.

Luke will be home to 144 F-35As.