(Phoenix, Ariz. -- Oct. 29, 2009) Attorney General Terry Goddard expressed appreciation today for the decision by the U.S. Air Force to include Luke Air Force Base as one of the finalists to become a training base for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"This is very good news for all of Arizona as well as for Luke," Goddard said. "In the weeks ahead, we need to do all we can to make sure the Pentagon is fully aware of Luke's unsurpassed suitability and the state's overwhelming support for its selection."
Luke, which has long been the world's largest training facility for F-16 pilots, was joined by Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico on the Pentagon's short list of potential secondary training bases. Eglin was previously selected as the primary base for the F-35. If it were also chosen as the secondary site, the entire training program would be located there. Some 200 Air Force sites were initially considered in the selection process.
Goddard has been among Luke's leading advocates for the F-35 assignment. In addition to meeting with senior Air Force and Defense Department officials in Washington on the matter, he filed a lawsuit last year against Maricopa County to force the county to comply with state law and protect the base from encroaching residential development. A Superior Court judge agreed with the State's position and ordered Maricopa County to stop issuing residential building permits in the high noise and accident potential zones around the base.
Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett said of the news, "Now, more than ever, we must unite behind the base, its people and its mission. The ‘Joint Strike Fighter’ (F-35) represents the new mission of our airmen and women at Luke. It will replace the F-16 as the most capable combat aircraft in the history of American airpower. You can be assured that Peoria will do everything it can to help Luke transition to this incredibly important mission, thereby ensuring the long term mission viability of Luke Air Force Base."
Goddard and Barrett will travel to Washington, D.C. again next week to meet with top Air Force officials to express their support for the selection of Luke.
The Pentagon is expected to make a formal announcement of the three finalists on Friday. The final decision is expected next spring.