Crowding the Skies over Luke

Dozens of F-16s, plus additional aircraft types, will take to the air above Luke AFB, Ariz., on Wednesday for Cactus Starfighter, a large-force training exercise for the 310th Fighter Squadron and 310th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. While Luke student pilots are required to participate in similar exercises at the end of their training, Cactus Starfighter is unique because of the number of aircraft launching simultaneously and the level of coordination required, said Luke officials. A total of 36 F-16s will launch simultaneously. Of those, 32 will be “good guys” and the remaining four will be mock aggressors. A visiting KC-35 tanker will provide aerial refueling and F-15s also will act as aggressors, along with Marine Corps F-5s. Also participating are an E-8C JSTARS, E-3 AWACS, and RC-135. (Luke report by SSgt. Robert Biermann and Jodi Jordan)