Luke Air Force Base
Luke Air Force Base is the largest and only active-duty F-16 training base in the world with more than 200 F-16s assigned. The host command at Luke is the 56th Fighter Wing, under Air Education and Training Command's 19th Air Force.
The wing is composed of four groups, 27 squadrons, including eight fighter squadrons. There are several tenant units on base, including the 944th Fighter Wing, assigned to 10th Air Force and the Air Force Reserve. The base population includes about 7,500 military members and 15,000 family members. With about 80,000 retired military members living in greater Phoenix, the base services a total population of more than 100,000 people. The financial impact of nearly $2 billion annually, Luke Air Force Base is key to the state of Arizona’s economic viability.
More than 470 pilots graduate from Luke annually and proceed to combat assignments throughout the world. The 56th Fighter Wing also trains more than 700 maintenance technicians each year.
For more than six decades, Luke AFB has been producing fighter pilots second to none. That rich history began Feb. 13, 1941, when the War Department approved a 1,400-acre site north of the small community of Litchfield Park for the construction of an advanced single-engine flying training base. In under four months, on June 1, the first aircraft touched down on Luke Field and fighter training began six days later. Over the years, the number of graduates from the base's fighter training programs was such that the base was known as, "The Home of the Fighter Pilot."
Luke Air Force Base is named for the first aviator to receive the Medal of Honor– Lt. Frank Luke Jr. Born in Phoenix in 1897, the “Arizona Balloon Buster” scored 18 aerial victories during World War I (14 of these German observation balloons) in the skies over France before being killed, at age 21, on Sept. 29, 1918.
In 1940, the U.S. Army sent a representative to Arizona to choose a site for an Army Air Corps training field for advanced 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 March 24, 1941. On March 29, 1941, the Del. E. Webb Construction Co. began excavation for the first building at what was know then as Litchfield Park Air Base. Another base known as Luke Field, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, released its name when the base was transferred to the Navy in June 1941, and the fledgling Arizona base was called Luke Field at the request of its first commander, Lt. Col. Ennis C. Whitehead, who went on to become a lieutenant general as commander of Air Defense Command in 1950.