August 17, 2010 (by Capt Gerardo Gonzalez) - With the announcement by Air Force officials that Luke Air Force Base was selected as the preferred alternative for F-35 Lightning II training came another announcement, the move of two F-16 Fighting Falcon squadrons to Holloman AFB, New Mexico.
The move of F-16's to Holloman is a strategic basing decision by the Air Force and not related to the possibility of Luke gaining the F-35 training mission. Holloman has the capacity to accept two F-16 squadrons and offers the ability to synergize training activities with MQ-1/9 training occurring on the same base.
No Luke squadrons have been identified for the move expected to happen in late 2011, at the earliest.
"It's important for everyone at Luke to remain focused on our current mission," said Brig. Gen. Kurt Neubauer, 56th Fighter Wing commander. "Until told otherwise, our job is to continue training F-16 fighter pilots and maintainers, and to deploy mission-ready war fighters."
The commander also said that higher headquarters will decide the move of any squadrons based on several factors, such as logistical support, aircraft maintenance considerations, the pilot training pipeline, and completion of the appropriate environmental analysis at Holloman.
Additionally, Luke being named a "preferred alternative" for F-35 training is not a final basing decision until the associated environmental analysis is complete. The final Air Force "record of decision" on the F-35 at Luke is planned for summer 2011.
The Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force implemented action to consolidate the F-22 Raptor fleet at bases that already have the aircraft, which resulted in the projected move of Raptors from Holloman to Elmendorf AFB
, Alaska; Langley AFB, Virginia; Nellis AFB, Nevada; and Tyndall AFB, Florida.
"This plan maximizes combat aircraft and squadrons available for contingencies," said Kathleen Ferguson, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations. "By consolidating aircraft at existing bases, F-22 operational flexibility is enhanced."