Luke Air Force Base
Luke Air Force Base (1941-Active) - A United States Air Force Base first established in 1941 as Litchfield Park Air Base near Glendale, Maricopa County, Arizona. Renamed Luke Army Air Field after Second Lieutenant Frank Luke who was a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient and the number two United States ace in World War I. Also known as Luke Field. Renamed Luke Air Force Base in 1949. Active Air Force Base.
Pre World War II
In 1940, the U.S. Army selected a site near Phoenix for an Army Air Corps training field for advanced pilot training in conventional fighter aircraft. The city of Phoenix bought 1,440 acres of land which they leased to the government at $1 a year effective 24 Mar 1941. On 29 Mar 1941, the Del E. Webb Construction Company began excavation for the first building at what was known then as Litchfield Park Air Base.
There was an existing base known as Luke Field at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Hawaii base was transferred to the Navy in June 1941, and the Arizona base was renamed Luke Field at the request of its first commander, Lt. Col. Ennis C. Whitehead.
The first class of 45 students, arrived on 6 Jun 1941 to begin advanced flight training in the AT-6. The Base was incomplete and only a few essential buildings had been completed at that time. Students flew out of Sky Harbor Airport until the Luke runways were ready, pilots received 10 weeks of instruction and the first class graduated on 15 Aug 1941.
During World War II, Luke was the largest fighter training base in the Air Corps, graduating more than 12,000 fighter pilots from advanced and operational courses in the AT-6, P-40, P-51, and P-38, earning the nickname, "Home of the Fighter Pilot." By 7 Feb 1944, pilots at Luke had achieved a million hours of flying time. By 1946, however, the number of pilots trained dropped to 299 and the base was deactivated on 30 Nov 1946.
With the start of the Korean war, Luke was reactivated on 1 Feb 1951 as Luke Air Force Base, part of the Air Training Command. Students progressed from the P-51 Mustang to the F-84 until 1964, then the F-104 Starfighter. Flying training at Luke changed to the F-100, and on 1 Jul 1958, the base was transferred from Air Training Command to Tactical Air Command. During the 1960s, thousands of American fighter pilots trained at Luke for the Vietnam war.
In 1959 Air Defense Command established a Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) Direction Center (DC-21) on Luke AFB. The SAGE system was a network linking Air Force Radar stations into a centralized system for CONUS Air Defense. DC-21 was deactivated on 9 Dec 1983 when technological advances made the vacuum tube SAGE system obsolete. See the separate page Luke SAGE Direction Center DC-21 page.
In July 1971, the base received the F-4C Phantom II fighters and began training fighter pilots for Tactical Air Command and fighter forces worldwide. In November 1974 the F-15 Eagle arrived at Luke. The first F-16 Fighting Falcon arrived in December 1982 and training began on 2 Feb 1983. The first F-16E arrived in 1988. The F-15A and B models were phased out in the early 1990s
On 31 Mar 2011, it was announced that the F-35 Lightning II would replace the F-16 as the primary training aircraft at Luke. On 16 Jul 2013, the Air Force announced that Luke AFB will house a total of 144 F-35A Lightning IIs.
There are four F-35 fighter squadrons and four F-16 fighter squadrons that directly support the base’s fighter pilot training mission.
Visited: 4 Mar 2015