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Arizona Congress members get answers on F-35 delays at Luke

(U.S. Air Force Photo)

PHOENIX – Arizona’s Congress members have been assured the delay in the delivery of F-35 jets to Luke Air Force Base does not signal a long-term change in plans.

“While contingent on funding, the Air Force is fully committed to bedding down six F-35A squadrons at Luke AFB,” Matthew Donovan, acting U.S. Air Force secretary, said in response to a May 15 inquiry led by Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko.

Arizona’s U.S. senators — Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema — joined their House colleagues in making the request for more information on the delay, Lesko’s office said Monday in a press release.

As part of his response to 10 questions, Donovan said Luke can’t have more than 170 aircraft because of environmental restrictions. So as more F-35s arrive at the West Valley base, F-16s have to be relocated.

However, although the Air Force is planning to phase out F-16s, the demand for training in them still has to be met.

As a result, it will take longer than originally planned to make room for last two F-35 squadrons.

Donovan said the fifth squadron’s anticipated arrival was pushed from summer 2021 to winter 2022/23 and the sixth squadron was delayed from fall 2022 to summer 2026.

When asked if the delay would impact staffing at the West Valley base, he said only small changes were expected.

The first F-35As arrived at Luke in 2014. Pilots from around the world come the base to train on the aircraft.

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