The U.S. Air Force has started to facilitate integrated direct support practice sorties in Lockheed Martin-built F-35A and F-16 aircraft as a regular part of the training curriculum at Luke Air Force Base.
The service branch said Tuesday 56th Fighter Wing pilots began to fly F-35A and F-16 aircraft in October as part of efforts to further develop F-35’s training and tactics.
“It’s important not only for our F-35 pilots to see integration, but also for our F-16 instructor pilots, who after their time here at Luke will eventually go back into combat Air Force assignments where having that knowledge of how to work with fifth-generation aircraft is going to be vital to their warfighting capability,” said Col. David Shoemaker, vice commander of 56th Fighter Wing.
Integrated training works to expose F-35 pilots to air-to-air combat operations against fourth-generation aircraft that could mimic adversaries as well as prepare F-35 and F-16 pilots for joint strike missions, the Air Force said.
The service branch noted pilots need to be proficient in integrated tactics to maximize the use of both fighter jets since the two aircraft will operate together before F-35 replaces the four-decade-old F-16.
Luke AFB is scheduled to host 144 F-35s between six F-35 fighter squadrons as part of the training development.