F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Lockheed Martin Corp. security guards stand in front of a new stealth fighter, known as the F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter, before a news conference after the plane's first flight in Fort Worth, Texas, Friday, Dec. 15, 2006. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

LM Otero

The US Air Force needs to hear support from East Valley residents for the F-35 mission at Luke Air Force Base. Luke, located in the West Valley, is contending to be one of the key training sites for the F-35 Lightning II, also referred to as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

It is described by the Air Force as a next-generation fighter aircraft that will be used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as eight foreign militaries as the replacement for the F-16.

The Environmental Impact Statement team hired by the Air Force has begun to hold hearings. The first was this past Monday and a heavy majority of those attending spoke in support of Luke being the site for the JSF.

The base is losing two F-16 squadrons to Holloman AFB in New Mexico. If Luke doesn’t land the new F-35 program, then it would potentially only have two F-16 squadrons left. This aircraft is due to be phased out during the next decade.

Landing the F-35 training site mission is critical. Luke employs more than 8,000 people and serves a population of more than 100,000 base personnel, military families and military retirees. Its estimated economic impact on the state is $2.17 billion annually.

It is located in the West Valley but it has implications all across the valley. Roc Arnett of the East Valley Partnership, an organization that promotes economic development activity in the East Valley, said Luke’s annual impact is equal to holding four Super Bowls in Arizona.

Residents in the Phoenix metro area need to let the Air Force know it supports the base and this new mission for its future. Demonstrated public support is an important step in Luke eventually winning as an F-35 training site. If it does, the Air force says the project will bring $125-$150 million in construction-related projects, which means jobs.

If you support the ongoing mission of Luke AFB please go to http://lukeforward.com online and simply register your name and email. You can add a comment if you wish. A postcard will be sent on your behalf to the USAF Air Education Training Command indicating your support for Luke AFB. This takes about 30 seconds to complete.

This is a very easy way for you to contribute to continued economic development. By doing so you may actually make a bigger impact in helping Arizona’s economy than many of your elected officials.

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