December 10, 2012 (by SrA Kate Vaughn) - It was a Monday morning 30 years ago this last Thursday when Col. Malcom Bolton, 58th Tactical Training Wing commander, stepped into a moment in history as he prepared to take off in the first permanently assigned F-16 Fighting Falcon at Luke Air Force Base.
Luke AFB squadron F-16s fly in formation over base during a training exercise on April 26th, 2005. [Photo by John Dibbs]
Staff Sgt. Brian Seabury, 310th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, accompanied Bolton in the Block 1-B model, tail number #78-0081
The 310th Fighter Squadron's mission hasn't changed since 1982: training the world's finest fighter pilots and maintenance technicians, a heritage the 310th FS
fighter pilots are still proud to be a part of, according to Lt. Col. John Forino, 310th FS director of operations.
"It makes all 310th FS pilots and maintainers proud as we are charged to carry on a long tradition of F-16 operations and maintenance to ensure we continue a legacy of perfection," Forino said. "The 310th FS is also proud to be recognized as the only squadron in the Air Force to train F-16 pilots in the role of forward air controller-airborne, [pilots who control combat commands from the air] a mission uniquely suited to the capabilities of the F-16."
The F-16 is the end result of multiple contributors including Lockheed Martin, NATO
allies and fighter pilots from around the world. The air-to-air/air-to-ground, day and night, all-weather capabilities of the world's premier multirole fighter make it a lethal threat to any enemy.
With its unparalleled maneuverability, speed and range, the F-16 served as a vital tool in combat operations from the Gulf War to the current conflict in Afghanistan.
Thirty years after the first flight of a permanent-based F-16 at Luke, Forino said it's still the best multirole fighter in the world.
"The F-16 is widely proliferated and the backbone of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. What makes it the best are the skilled, professional and best trained fighter pilots in the world who operate them."
Today, the F-16 continues to provide unmatched support for the ongoing war in Afghanistan and other operations worldwide.
Even with the highly anticipated arrival of the F-35 at Luke, there's no saying goodbye to the Fighting Falcon anytime soon.
"The F-16 is going to be here for a very long time," said Col. Robert Webb, 56th Fighter Wing vice commander. "We are committed to the future, and that includes F-16s and F-35s right here at Luke."
After 30 years at Luke, the F-16 not only holds a special place in the Air Force's history, but with its unique capabilities and reliable qualities, it also holds a special place in the Air Force's future.