Luke Stands Up Third F-35 Squadron

Luke AFB, Ariz., has its third F-35 squadron. Lt. Col. Matthew Vedder took command of the unit – the 63rd Fighter Squadron – Aug. 1 at a ceremony on the base’s flight line. The squadron will train American and Turkish F-35 pilots as part of the partnership between the two countries; the pilot instructors will all be American. Vedder previously served as director of operations for the 62nd Fighter Squadron, which also trains international F-35 pilots at Luke. Col. Benjamin Bishop, commander of the 56th Operations Group, said at the ceremony the 63rd has “a distinct heritage” and has been part of the 56th Fighter Wing since World War II. By 2022, Luke AFB is scheduled to have six F-35 squadrons and 144 jets. The 62nd FS transitioned from the F-16 to the F-35A in June of 2015, making it the second F-35 training squadron at the Arizona base. Luke’s first F-35 training squadron, the 61st FS, stood up in October 2013. Turkey plans to buy 100 F-35As, according to Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin in November 2015 announced it would develop and integrate the Turkish SOM-J medium-range cruise missile onto the country’s Lightning IIs.