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CONTACT: Steve Yamamori, 602-369-3531


OCTOBER 20, 2009 – Arizona’s congressional delegation supports the new F-35 mission landing at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.

In a unified showing, the state’s eight members of the House of Representatives and two members of the Senate said in a recent letter that Luke AFB, with its robust and modern infrastructure, provides the Air Force with a site that is extremely well-suited to support the fighter tactics and training required by the F-35 Lightning II.

Arizona’s congressional delegation sent the letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and General Norton Schwartz, chief of staff for the Air Force, on October 15. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, along with Representatives Ann Kirkpatrick (District 1), Trent Franks (District 2), John Shadegg (District 3), Ed Pastor (District 4), Harry Mitchell (District 5), Jeff Flake (District 6), Raul Grijalva (District 7) and Gabrielle Giffords (District 8), all signed the letter.

In the letter, Arizona’s representatives in Washington, D.C., say: “We have worked together to enable Luke AFB and the Barry M. Goldwater Range to remain vital national assets in the Air Force’s support of the global contingency operations.”

The congressional letter is being well received by local Luke supporters.

“To have Arizona’s entire congressional delegation unify and show their unwavering support of Luke Air Force Base is a very significant step forward in helping secure Luke’s future mission,” said Charley Freericks, co-chair of the Luke Forward campaign that was recently launched to bring the F-35 to Luke AFB.
Luke is currently the largest active-duty F-16 training base in the world, and the Air Force is planning to begin replacing its fleet of F-16s with the new F-35 within the next few years.

The Luke Forward campaign is a statewide initiative developed to send a strong message to the Department of Defense that Arizona supports Luke AFB continuing to be the country’s premier fighter pilot training facility. The campaign will also raise awareness of the critical role Luke serves in the nation’s defense and in the state’s economy.


    • Arizona officials use municipal conference to laud Luke AFB
      -From City of Glendale, Arizona on Oct. 14th, 2009
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 14, 2009CONTACT: Jerry McCoy/623-930-2964 – Marketing/Communications Department


GLENDALE, Ariz. – Government and business leaders kicked off a statewide campaign this morning at the Arizona Capital to bring the new F-35 joint strike fighter to Luke Air Force Base.
Gov. Jan Brewer hosted the press conference with Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and other representatives from West Valley cities, Maricopa County and Fighter Country Partnership to make the special announcement regarding the future of Luke Air Force Base.
“Today, we’ve all come together as partners in this new initiative, which has statewide significance and support, to secure the new F-35 mission at Luke,” said Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, co-chair of the Luke Forward campaign.
“Luke has served as the Air Force’s ‘school house’ for America’s fighter pilots and our allies since the 1940s, and we do not expect that role to change.”
Luke Air Force Base is currently the largest active-duty F-16 training base in the world and the Air Force is beginning to replace its fleet of F-16s with the new F-35 Lightning II.
The Air Force is expected to release its initial list of military bases that will be candidates for the F-35’s training and operational missions within the next couple weeks and make its final F-35 basing decision in early 2011.

Through the Luke Forward campaign, state and local government and business leaders plan to generate support from citizens living in every city and town in Arizona in order to position the state as a strong supporter of the F-35 training mission with the nation’s decision makers in Washington, D.C.
“Luke is the ideal location for this advanced strike fighter, but we need to continue working closely with our federal delegation, the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to demonstrate our state’s preparedness and commitment to continue this partnership with the Air Force,” said Brewer.
“This Luke Forward campaign will help us accomplish this, and I look forward to working with government leaders, business organizations and community groups in support of this statewide effort.”
Residents and businesses will be learning about Luke Forward through the creation of a new Web site, a speaker’s bureau, presentations to business groups, electronic billboards, the use of social media – such as Facebook and Twitter – cable programs and other means.
The focal point will be the campaign’s Web site, where residents are being encouraged to register their support of the F-35 training mission at Luke.
“Local community support of military bases is very important back in Washington, and we know there is tremendous Valley- and statewide support for Luke Air Force Base,” said Charley Freericks, who is co-chairing the campaign with Scruggs.
“Whether it’s the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, PTA or a community group, our plan is to reach as many people as possible through Luke Forward.”
In addition to the role that Luke and Arizona’s other military installations serve in the nation’s defense and preparedness, Arizona’s military industry represents one of the largest industries in the state.

A recent study commissioned by the state found that Arizona’s five major military bases – Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Fort Huachuca, Luke AFB, Yuma Marine Corps Air Station and Yuma Proving Grounds — plus the state’s four National Guard facilities — create and support approximately 96,000 jobs in Arizona and generate more than $9 billion annually in economic
impact statewide.

Luke AFB alone contributes more than 8,000 jobs and $2.17 billion annually to the state’s economy. In addition, due to its location in the Valley, Luke serves a total population of more than 100,000 people when military family members and retirees are factored in. Many military retirees throughout the Valley rely on Luke’s on-base services, including medical and dental.
The Luke Forward campaign was developed by the West Valley Partners and Fighter Country Partnership to generate awareness and support of the positive impacts the Air Force’s next generation strike fighter will bring to Arizona.

The West Valley Partners include Avondale, Buckeye, Glendale, Gila Bend, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Maricopa County, Peoria, Phoenix, Surprise, Tolleson, Wickenburg and Youngtown. Fighter Country Partnership is a non-profit organization that supports the men, women and families of Luke Air Force Base and works to protect and enhance the base’s mission.
For more information on Luke Forward or to schedule a business or community presentation, call 623-882-2191.


Recent News:

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ cost-cutting plan announced Thursday was not expected to affect the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from possibly coming to Luke Air Force Base.The Air Force in July picked Luke as its preferred site to train pilots on the next generation of war jets.

Under Gate’s Efficiencies Initiative that includes eliminating excess or troubled programs, the Air Force is expected to cut $34 billion in spending over five years.

“We have not heard from our sources back in D.C. where (the Air Force’s F-35 program) is in jeopardy of being eliminated or is delayed at this point,” said Steven Methvin, Glendale’s point person for Luke issues.

He said the Air Force continues to perform an environmental impact analysis on what placing the F-35 at Luke would mean for the region.

The Pentagon’s cost-cutting could impact the Marine’s variant of the F-35 and its delivery date, according to Charley Freericks, board chairman of Fighter Country Partnership, a support group for the base.

The Marine Corps’ short take-off and vertical landing F-35 has been placed on the equivalent of two-year probation because of significant testing problems. That aircraft will be moved to the back of the F-35-production sequence.

The F-35 Lightning II plane is designed to be used in modified forms by all branches of the military, eventually replacing various fighter jets now in use.

“Right now, we’re on track,” Freericks said. “Later this month, early next month we expect the draft (environmental study) to get published and issued.”

The study is looking at factors including noise, land use and safety at Luke and at least two other Air Force bases.

A final decision on where to place the F-35 training facility is expected by next summer.

If Luke wins the F-35, it would replace its aging fleet of F-16s.

Supporters want the F-35 to come to Arizona to ensure the Glendale base stays open. The installation is an economic engine for Arizona, pumping $2 billion a year into the economy.

A statement released by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz bodes well for the Air Force F-35 program.

They said the savings realized by reducing overhead and support functions will be shifted to other programs, including buying more F-35 training simulators. Those simulator purchases show the continued Air Force commitment to the critical F-35 program, the statement said.

Political newcomer John Palladino defeated El Mirage Councilman Roger Cleveland by a sizable margin in last week’s runoff election. The vote is the latest in a handful of elections that have reshaped the balance of power in the small Northwest Valley city.PRO-LUKE VICTORY
Pro-Luke Air Force Base candidates, including Palladino, dominated this year’s elections in El Mirage, ousting several members who had taken a skeptical view of F-35 training. Five former board members of the grass-roots group People of El Mirage won council seats, including the mayor’s post. Most received enough votes in the August primary to avoid a runoff. The group was formed last year to oppose the city’s much-criticized position on basing F-35 jet-fighter training at nearby Luke.

The outgoing City Council drew criticism last year when it asked for $400 million in federal compensation to offset perceived harm from restrictions limiting growth around the Glendale base. Members also complained that noise from the jets would hurt property values. The base is a $2 billion-a-year economic engine in Arizona and the Air Force’s preferred site for F-35 training.

Palladino, a retired postal manager, said the outcome of this year’s election has set a new course for El Mirage. Aside from Luke, he said the new council will be more critical of tax increases and raises for city staff. He said the existing council did whatever former City Manager B.J. Cornwall “told them to do.” Cornwall resigned in September amid criticism over his decision to lay off six firefighters.

Cleveland did not respond to a request for comment. Palladino and other newly elected officials will be sworn in Dec. 9. He will be joined by Mayor-elect Lana Mook and incoming Council members Lynn Selby, Joe Ramirez and James McPhetre.

State Sen. John Nelson was one of 11 individuals who flew to Fort Worth, Texas Aug. 11 for a tour of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. Nelson made the trip at his own expense.The group, which also included Fighter Country Partnership representatives and the Luke Air Force Base Community Initiative team, returned Aug. 12.

Lockheed Martin is the main contractor for the F-35 Lightning II next generation of jet fighters.

“For openers,” Nelson said, “the military goal was a single fighter airframe that with variations could meet the needs of the Air Force, Marines and Navy. This would permit the use of many interchangeable parts for mechanical simplicity and cost savings.

“There is a consortium of nine countries investing in and ultimately purchasing the F-35. The several test planes flying in this country are the only F-35s flying at this time.”

There are three variants:

1) Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) -Air Force

2) Short Takeoff Vertical Landing (STOVL) -Marines

3) Carrier Variant Takeoff and Landing (CVTOL)-Navy

Nelson said, “The initial test unit construction process is crafted such that when testing is complete and fully operational they can complete one plane in an ‘average day’ without having to build a new production line, thereby, saving time and money.

“The F-35 has great stealth capability, carrying fuel and weapons internally, using low emission radar, using a ‘buried engine’ and shaped exhaust, with no external antennae to reduce the radar footprint.”

Lockheed Martin is responsible for developing the training manuals for the various levels of maintenance and flight training use.

Since the F-35 is a single seated fighter, new pilots will spend a lot of time hitting the books and using the flight simulator prior to getting into the air.

“That brings us to Luke Air Force Base and the mission of training F-35, the fifth generation platform,” Nelson said. “From the information provided, together with walking the production line and the flight line, Lockheed Martin is expending a huge effort in a safe, well-planned, structural environment to create the F-35 A, B and C as our next level of stealth fighter, to protect our country as well as generally operate within the established guidelines.

“Remember the sound of freedom does come with a price as many of us who have lost family and loved ones know.”

Reach Nelson at

Valley leaders reacted last week with excitement to an announcement by Sen. John McCain that the Department of Air Force has selected Luke Air Force Base as its preferred training base for stationing of the F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter).“The Air Force has recognized that the unparalleled capabilities inherent to Arizona – from the Barry M. Goldwater Range, to great flying weather, and strong support from state and local governments and communities, serve to provide the best environment and the finest quality of life for our military personnel training in the Air Force’s next generation fighter,” McCain said. “In return, Luke AFB offers the West Valley and the state of Arizona a strong economic engine, contributing more than 8,000 jobs and $2.17 billion annually to the state’s economy.”

With the decision, Luke is now poised to transition from its current F-16 training mission to become the Air Force’s “school house,” subject to the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process that is currently underway.

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs said she was happy and relieved.

“Obviously, they did the right thing for the Air Force, national defense, the state of Arizona and the West Valley,” Scruggs said. “This represents a major milestone and the most critical stage in the F-35 site-selection process. Although we realize there is more work ahead of us, we are extremely grateful to our state’s congressional delegation, the Arizona Legislature, Gov. Jan Brewer, Attorney General Terry Goddard and citizens and businesses for working closely with us to champion and support the F-35 coming to Luke Air Force Base through our Luke Forward campaign.”

The campaign was developed to send a clear, strong message to the Department of Defense that Arizona supports Luke AFB continuing to serve as one of the country’s premier fighter pilot training facilities and to raise awareness of the critical role Luke plays in our national defense and state’s economy.”

Brewer called the selection a testament to Arizona’s great team effort.

“Having Luke selected as the F-35 training center was personal for me. Luke is in my back yard, and I was a founding member of Luke’s Fighter Country Partnership,” said Brewer, who is a resident of Glendale. “In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley before the selection, and in leading a delegation of Arizona officials to meetings at the Pentagon, I noted Luke is the perfect location for this advanced fighter aircraft given the fact that Arizona has state statutes in place to manage growth around our military installations that protect their missions. I reminded him of Luke’s unique assets – including its proximity to the 2.7-million acre Barry M. Goldwater Range, key to air-to-ground combat training, along with 57,000 cubic miles of airspace overhead where pilots practice air-to-air maneuvers and engage targets on the ground.”

Fighter Country Partnership (FCP) Chairman Charley Freericks, who is co-chairing the Luke Forward Campaign with Scruggs, credits community support for the decision.

“Local community support of military bases is very important back in Washington, and we know the tremendous Valley and statewide support for Luke Air Force Base really helped us,” said Freericks, a senior vice president at DMB Associates. “We reached literally tens of thousands of Arizonans through our citizen and business outreach initiatives, and community support for Luke AFB was overwhelming. There is no question that this strong level of support was a significant factor in the Air Force’s decision to site F-35 at Luke.”

Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett called Luke AFB a real economic driver in the West Valley.

“The F-35 mission ensures Luke’s viability for the next 40 years,” Barrett said. “This is the best news we could have hoped for at this point. The City of Peoria will continue to strongly support the mission and Luke AFB throughout this process.”

The announcement that Luke was a preferred base was made prior to the Air Force’s draft F-35 basing EIS document, which is anticipated to be published in the next 30 days.

The Air Force is required to conduct an environmental assessment of each potential F-35 site before making its final basing decision.

The federally mandated assessment, which is referred to as the EIS process, allows individual citizens and communities around candidate bases to provide input during the formal evaluation of each base.

The Draft EIS will serve as the Air Force’s notice of intent to proceed. Once the Draft EIS is released, in which Luke will be indentified as the Air Force’s preferred site, public hearings will be held later this year.

Once the public hearings are held and the comment period concludes, the Air Force will release its final EIS document that will provide responses to comments received from the public.

After the Final EIS document is published, there will be an additional 30-day public review period. After reviewing comments and after considering any environmental impacts, the Air Force will make its final decision.

It is anticipated the Air Force’s final “Record Decision” which will conclude the environmental impacft process, will be made in early 2011.

Reach the reporter at, or 623-847-4615.

The Air Force got it exactly right in naming Luke Air Force Base its preferred location to train pilots to fly the new F-35 fighter jet. There is no better place for it.And there’s no better time for good news from Washington.

The Air Force announced Thursday that Luke, at this point in the military’s analysis, is the optimum training location for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 replaces the aging F-16, for which Luke has been the premier training site in the world.

This is a major step in securing Luke’s future. Landing the F-35 is expected to have a positive impact for decades. In the short term, the F-35 could initially bring in as much as $125 million in construction money to ready the base for the aircraft.

Throughout its 69-year history, Luke has played a vital role in the nation’s defense and in Arizona’s development. The base has made a major imprint on the Valley’s growth and has a $2.2 billion annual effect on the state economy.

Its presence is well-known and treasured, which is why Arizona’s political and business leaders and other Luke supporters waged an impressive campaign to tout the base’s virtues to the Defense Department.

Luke was on a short list for the F-35 with training bases in Idaho, Florida and New Mexico. Now Luke is no longer a contender for the new fighter jet; it is the training mission location to beat.

Barring an unexpected adverse finding during an upcoming environmental impact study, Luke should get final approval for the F-35 before next summer.

In a bright future, Luke remains an important part of Arizona’s economy and the nation’s defense system.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. John McCain told West Valley leaders in Litchfield Park that he is confident Luke Air Force Base will land the F-35 Lightning II, a new generation of stealth aircraft.

The F-35 Lightning II, also called the Joint Strike Fighter, has long been regarded as the savior of Luke, a base in Glendale where F-16 pilots are trained. McCain was addressing Westmarc, a West Valley consortium of business, government and community leaders.

“I can say with great confidence, we will have the F-35 at Luke Air Force Base where training for every Air Force pilot will take place,” he said.

The Air Force is in the midst of an environmental-impact study to determine the aircraft’s effect on such things as air quality and noise. A first draft is expected in September.

Although the decision where to base the F-35 isn’t McCain’s, he is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is also running for re-election in a Republican primary campaign against challenger J.D. Hayworth, a former six-term Arizona congressman and conservative radio talk-show host.

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett were thrilled at McCain’s prediction.

“What jumped out at me is the F-35 is coming to Luke Air Force Base,” Scruggs said. “I liked that certainty and assuredness and no questions about it.”

Barrett said the most important economic issue facing the West Valley is the acquisition of the F-35 at Luke. Luke’s economic impact on the state is almost $2.2 billion.

“For the senator to stand up there and say he is confident that we’re going to secure the F-35 is exhilarating,” Barrett said.

El Mirage has struggled for years to get respect. And it’s unfortunate that in recent months many of its attempts to get attention have landed with a thud.

Councilman Adam Super holds the string of the latest lead balloon. He recently wrote a strange letter suggesting the only way to protect Luke Air Force Base from encroachment was to raze everything within a 7-mile radius of it.

The “Luke Encroachment Neutral Zone” “would be cleared of all habitation, businesses, industry and any other threats to Luke’s mission. This is the only way to insure (sic) that encroachment will never threaten Luke’s vital raison d’être,” he wrote in a letter dated April 8 and sent to leaders in nine cities and Maricopa County.

“Am I facetious or serious?” Super said last week to reporter Cecilia Chan. “I think a little bit of both.”

El Mirage’s gaffes and missteps began a year ago when the city caught West Valley cities by surprise in going to Washington to ask for $400 million in reparations for the pain of accommodating operations at Luke. The city continues to aggressively engage in public-relations maneuvers to influence how the Defense Department decides who gets the F-35 training mission.

Super takes full ownership of the letter. He said his idea for the Luke Encroachment Neutral Zone isn’t something he cooked up with fellow council members.

But now that he has thrown the zone concept out there and doesn’t flatly say he’s just kidding, the City Council has no choice but to make clear its position.

The letter becomes another example of why many people have a hard time taking the city seriously.

WASHINGTON – Gov. Jan Brewer and a delegation of about 20 elected officials and Phoenix-area business leaders lobbied top Air Force generals for four hours Monday in an effort to convince them that Luke Air Force Base would be the best place to train pilots on the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“We gave it 100 percent, and I think we were successful,” Brewer said afterward in an interview with the Republic on Capitol Hill. “It just felt good.”

Although Air Force officials made no promises, the governor said they noted Luke’s strengths, including strong community support, good year-round flying weather, and the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, a 2.7 million-acre pilot training area.

“All the puzzle pieces fit together,” Brewer said.

The one weakness that Air Force officials raised is that Maricopa County is a so-called “non-attainment area” under the Clean Air Act, meaning that it does not meet federal standards for the amount of fine particulate dust and soot in the air.

Brewer said Air Force officials expressed some concern about the pollution but said they did not expect that any F-35s brought to the base would add significantly to the problem.

The governor said she would meet with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality officials to provide more information to the Air Force about the situation and to see what might be done to lessen the problem.

The Air Force is scheduled to announce its preferred F-35 training site this summer. After that, a federal environmental impact statement must be completed before the Air Force makes its final decision next year.

Brewer and local elected officials have made saving the base a top priority. The F-35 training mission could replace the existing F-16 Falcon training program as the older fighter planes are phased out.

Luke Air Force Base employs about 8,000 people and pumps about $2.7 million per year into the area’s economy.

“It would be a real blow to the state of Arizona to lose it,” Brewer said.

Paul Senseman, the governor’s deputy chief of staff and spokesman, said Air Force officials told the state delegation that Brewer was the only governor to come in person to lobby the Pentagon for the F-35.

He said they also were impressed with the size of the delegation that came from Arizona in support of bringing the training mission to Luke. In addition to Brewer, the delegation included Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Attorney General Terry Goddard, and Michael Bidwill, president of the Arizona Cardinals. The trip was organized by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Among the top Pentagon officials at the meeting were Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff; Maj. Gen. Robin Round of the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force; and Gen. Carrol Chandler, vice chief of staff for the Air Force.

Brewer flew to Washington, D.C., on Sunday night and was scheduled to return to Arizona on Monday night.

“It’s a quick turnaround, but I felt it was well worth the time and energy,” the governor said. “I think we all feel encouraged by the reception we received.”

    • Deal to end home building near Arizona’s Luke AFB
      -From Business Week by Jonathan A. Cooper Feb. 5, 2010
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      or Download a PDF


Maricopa County officials agreed to stop new single-family home construction around Luke Air Force Base, a move that they hope will make the base a more attractive candidate for training pilots on the new F-35 fighter.

Thursday’s agreement is a victory for the state and for communities near the base in the suburbs west of Phoenix that worry the base may close if urban encroachment prompts concerns about safety and noise.

Luke pumps $2 billion a year into the economy. It is a training home for the F-16 fighter, which is being phased out.

The base’s supporters hope a new mission training the next generation of fighter pilots would protect Luke for years.

“Our message today is clear to the decision makers in Washington: We stand ready for the F-35, and the state of Arizona will do all we can to make it happen,” Gov. Jan Brewer said.

The settlement ends more than a year of legal battles between the county and the state Attorney General’s Office.

The county refused to comply with a 2004 law prohibiting it from allowing construction in high-noise areas and accident-potential zones around the base and its auxiliary fields. It cited concerns about protecting the rights of private land owners in the affected areas.

The new agreement allows construction to continue on projects already under way, and it requires the state to defend any lawsuits filed against the county because of its compliance with state law.

Luke is one of a handful of facilities being considered for a secondary training base for F-35 pilots. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson is also being considered, but Brewer said in October that Luke has a better shot at being selected.

Air Force officials have said they plan to narrow the list this spring and make a final decision early next year.

Luke boasts good flying weather, access to nearby practice ranges and extensive facilities for pilot training. The state and 10 communities near the base launched a lobbying and social-networking campaign in October to promote Luke for the F-35.

Luke has trained fighter pilots since it opened in 1941.

“It’s a proud heritage, and it’s one we want to continue into the future,” said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

Arizona has one of the nation’s strongest laws guarding against Air Force base enforcement, Goddard said.

In an overwhelming display of unity Thursday, the county, state and West Valley elected officials gathered to celebrate an agreement that ends litigation over residential encroachment on Luke Air Force Base.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting and subsequent accord-signing ceremony included a who’s who of dignitaries at the Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa in Litchfield Park. Gov. Jan Brewer, Attorney General Terry Goddard, state Sen. John Nelson and Col. Jeff Weed, the vice wing commander of Luke, joined the Board of Supervisors as it unanimously approved the agreement.

Mayors and representatives of virtually every West Valley city, people from Luke and a host of other West Valley officials and interests watched as the governor, the attorney general and the board participated in the signing ceremony.

Under the settlement, the county adopted an ordinance prohibiting development of single-family homes in high-accident and high-noise areas around Luke, Luke’s Auxiliary Field 1 and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field.

The show of unity was meant to send a message to the U.S. Defense Department that Luke is the best place for the F-35 Lightning II, also called the Joint Strike Fighter.

The F-35 replaces the aging F-16s flown at Luke, a base in Glendale.

“It’s no secret that Luke Air Force Base is on the short list for the F-35,” Brewer said. “It’s no secret that Luke alone injects $2 billion a year into the Arizona economy. Our message today is clear to the decision-makers in Washington: Luke stands ready for the F-35, and the state of Arizona will do all (it) can to make it happen.”

The litigation and much of the lingering dispute centered on Aux 1, an Air Force training site in north Surprise that is adjacent to Wittmann. There, long-established landowners felt their property rights had been infringed upon by a 2004 state statute sponsored by Nelson to prohibit building new homes in the accident-potential and high-noise zones.

Goddard sued the county in August 2008 to stop it from issuing building permits for new homes in Luke’s restricted areas. The county countersued, asking the courts to strike down as unconstitutional the law that prevented building in those areas. The county maintained that landowner property rights prevented the denial of building permits.

In February 2009, the court ruled in favor of the state, but the battle continued over a narrow noise zone between the 65- and 80-decibel range.

After the signing ceremony, Supervisor Max Wilson said it was important for the county to protect the rights of property owners. He said it was that intent that led to the litigation and long and drawn-out negotiations.

Once the state agreed to indemnify the county against takings lawsuits, the agreement between the state and county became possible, Wilson said. A taking is when government takes land from a private party without fair compensation.

Goddard said he is confident there are no takings, and he is prepared to defend the county against any such lawsuits.

The legal agreement to prevent residential encroachment around Luke Air Force Base and its auxiliary facilities represents a major victory for the citizens of Arizona.

The settlement is significant in several respects:

• It brings Maricopa County into compliance with state laws enacted to protect military airports from encroaching development. Those laws were passed to safeguard not only state military installations, but also the health and safety of residents living nearby.

• It improves Luke’s chances to be chosen as a training base for the next generation of Air Force jets, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That decision stands to have a substantial impact on Arizona’s economy since the base contributes more than $2 billion a year to the State.

• It shows what can be accomplished when a commitment to serve the greater good prevails over political and policy differences. I commend the members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Gov. Jan Brewer for their roles in helping work out the final agreement.

The Luke controversy goes back to 2004 when the State Legislature and the Governor signed into law development requirements to ensure adequate buffer zones around the State’s military bases. All local governments in Maricopa County, with the exception of the county itself, complied with the law. The county continued to issue nearly 100 residential building permits in areas with high accident and noise potential surrounding Luke and its related facilities.

Two years ago, I issued a legal opinion affirming the Legislature’s intent to protect Arizona’s military bases and followed up with a letter to the Maricopa County Board asserting its legal obligation to protect Luke from residential encroachment. When the board indicated it would not comply, I filed a lawsuit asking the court to require the county to take the steps required by state law. The county countersued, asking the court to strike down the 2004 law.

One year ago, Maricopa County Superior Court ruled in our favor on nearly every point in our lawsuit, but the county remained unwilling to give up all aspects of its legal challenge.

The agreement reached this week resolves the lawsuit and should stop residential development near the base. A key to the settlement was the State’s willingness to partner with the county and be the first line of legal defense against any potential lawsuits filed by property owners who still want to build in the high-risk zones around Luke.

Air Force officials have left no doubt that encroachment could trip up Luke’s bid. In a recent letter, Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force Chief of Staff, wrote that continued development within the high noise and accident potential zones “is incompatible with military flight operations” and had “cast a bit of a shadow” on Luke’s otherwise excellent standing.

The criteria set for making the F-35 decision make the importance of this settlement clear. The Air Force created a 100-point system based on the following: weather and airspace (60 points), cost (5 points), capacity (25 points) and environment (10 points). In the latter category are two sub-categories, air quality (3 points) and encroachment (7 points). Resolving the encroachment dispute should enable Luke to gain most, if not all, of those 7 points and could give the base the highest score.

Ever since its opening in 1941, Luke has played a vital role in our nation’s security and our State’s economy. It has trained more than 55,000 pilots during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and more recently, the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, more than 95 percent of the Air Force’s F-16 pilots are trained at Luke, confirming its status as the country’s premier fighter pilot training base.

We don’t want that to change. The settlement reached this week should help maintain Luke’s prominent mission far into the future.

Terry Goddard is the attorney general of Arizona.

Certainty and resolve stood out at the annual meeting of Fighter Country Partnership Saturday night; however, a word of caution came from U.S. Sen. John McCain.

The senior senator from Arizona removed any arrogant attitude about Luke as the bed-down base for the F-35. He said encroachment is at the top of the list when it comes to evaluating for final placement of the military’s newest jet fighter. Encroachment will play a major role as part of the environmental impact study, which is set to commence next month.

“We’ve got work to do with county supervisors and El Mirage,” McCain said.

He said those two entities must be satisfied, yet the most vital training in the United States must be preserved. He said the Navy, Marines and Air Force are trying to find a place on the East Coast to train.
“There’s no place else in the continental United States where they can do that training,” he said.

Although employment and impact on the Arizona economy are important factors for locating the F-35 mission at Luke Air Force Base, McCain said the most important need is “to defend this nation against enemies, foreign and domestic.”

He said the cost of the F-35 is going up, but the environmental impact study and scoping process go on. He said the military will be flying F-16s for a long time, but the F-35 is the force of the future for the Navy, Marines and Air Force.

“Its capabilities are literally unbelievable,” McCain said. “The F-16 is a fantastic aircraft; the F-35 is marvelous.”

McCain said the F-35 would be noisier than the F-16, but did not say how much noisier. He said the public scoping and evaluation process would be the same in every part of the country that is being considered as a bed-down training base for the F-35.

“No procedure or process will be avoided,” McCain said.

He said he felt confident about Luke’s chances for being named a training base for the F-35 because officials have restrained encroachment.

McCain was presented with the Wing Coin and Chairman’s Award by Brig. Gen. Kurt Neubauer, 56th Fighter Wing Commander, and Charley Freericks, Chairman of Fighter Country Partnership’s board of directors. The award was given in recognition of McCain being a champion of Luke during his years of public service.

McCain spoke to the importance of community support organizations like Fighter Country Partnership that help keep Arizona’s military installations open and active.

Neubauer thanked McCain for speaking at the gathering of more than 250 Fighter Country Partnership members and guests at the annual meeting. He noted the 27,000 sorties, 35,000 hours of flight, the training of 350 new pilots and 400 crew chiefs that took place at Luke in 2009. He told the crowd that Luke trains 95 percent of all the fighter pilots for the Air Force, and has deployed 600 down range to 17 different countries.

“It’s a busy place in large part because Luke Air Force Base is a national treasure,” Neubauer said.

He said the reasons for its stature is because of the infrastructure, air space, weather and community partnerships, friendships, kinships and brotherhood. Neubauer praised Fighter Country Partnership for the support it gives to airmen and their families, which he called “priceless.”

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in my 28-1/2 years of service,” Neubauer said. “You speak on our behalf.”

He thanked Fighter Country Partnership for its ability also to set the record straight, educate the public and advocate.

“I couldn’t be more proud than I am to live and serve all of you,” he said.

Freericks briefed the audience about the Luke Forward campaign, which officially kicked off Oct. 14 at the state capitol. Freericks said since the campaign began, almost 14,000 people have registered their support and $15,000 has been raised for the campaign, 22 organizations and 1,500 people have been briefed. To register support, go to

Freericks said the primary focus today is the environmental impact study, and he called it a complicated, long-lasting review.

Rusty Mitchell, director of the Community Initiatives Team at Luke, said he has been around long enough to see the evolution of Luke, Fighter Country Partnership and Talon.

“I can’t tell you the difference, what it means to have the senior senator from Arizona here,” he said. “It speaks volumes.”

Mitchell said people would hear a lot of false, inaccurate information about the EIS. The first step was taken Dec. 28 with a notice of intent, Mitchell said. Next is a series of scoping meetings, open house events with no formal presentation at five locations. Experts will be present to talk to participants about infrastructure, noise, water, air range and space issues.

At the open houses, people can submit their concerns, and the contractor hired to take comments will work up the EIS document. Then, sometime in late fall, a draft EIS will be published and sent to all cities involved in the F-35 base siting process. Individuals will be able to download their own copy of the EIS.

Once the draft EIS is released, public hearings will be held, at which time, individuals can again make comments, which will be gathered and made part of the final environmental impact statement about 14 months later.

“Until that order is signed in 2011, there’s no decision,” Mitchell said. “Until the process is complete, there’s no decision.”

Scoping meetings are set to take place Feb. 22 to 26, and they will be advertised in all major newspapers, Mitchell said.

Steve Yamamori, CEO and Director of Fighter Country Partnership gave a financial review of the organization’s fundraising activities and projected revenues for 2010.

In 2009, the organization raised $97,180 for services on base; 87 cents of every dollar went to services (Luke Days brought in $121,000). Revenues in 2009 were $349,403 and projected revenues for 2010 were set at $213,000.

Valley residents can have their say next month on the potential impact of the F-35 if it comes to Luke Air Force Base.The Air Force plans to hold public meetings Feb. 22-26 in five West Valley communities that may be potentially affected if Luke becomes a training base for the aircraft.

Air Force officials are asking residents, city government representatives and community leaders to help shape an environmental analysis study. The so-called scoping meetings are a prelude to the environmental impact statement.

The EIS analysis is expected to examine issues relating to land use, airspace and safety, air and water quality, noise, socioeconomics, and biological and cultural resources.

The military will use the environmental study to help determine which base lands the stealth fighter.

“This scoping process is a critical component,” said El Mirage spokeswoman Stacy Pearson. “The EIS goes back to the public for comment but, at that point, they don’t open it up to study additional items.”

Luke is one of two Arizona bases on the short list of five military installations to train pilots on the jets. The other Arizona candidate is Tucson International Airport Air Guard Station.

Luke supporters, including Surprise, Peoria and Glendale city leaders, want the F-35 in Arizona to ensure the base stays open after it phases out its aging F-16s. The base pumps $2.1 billion a year into the state’s economy.

Surprise Mayor Lyn Truitt encouraged resident participation.

“It is extremely important that residents have factual information and the opportunity to ask questions,” Truitt said. “This process is the proper place to do that, so it is important people attend these meetings. Imagine the turmoil if an employer providing thousands of jobs and pumping billions into the economy suddenly left the West Valley. That is what is at stake now.”

Gov. Jan Brewer and Westmarc, Luke Fighter Country Partnership and other groups have pressed for public support to bring the F-35, which is the next generation of fighter jets, to Arizona.

El Mirage, which is taking a neutral stance on the Strike Joint Fighter, is concerned the new jets might be louder than the F-16s. Two-thirds of the city sits under a noise-contour zone, which restricts development around Luke.

Mayor Michele Kern this week sent a letter to U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asking him to wield his political clout and push her city’s request that the Air Force fly two or more F-35s in the region before the scoping meetings.

Kern also wants noise to be considered a “determining element” in the scoping process and subsequent environmental study.

El Mirage is the only community in the region that has not fully supported the F-35’s arrival.

“Our concern is not with El Mirage’s request,” said Jerry McCoy, spokesman for Glendale, which is home to Luke. “But rather that all potential F-35 sites be treated the same during the environmental scoping process. This helps ensure the process is consistent and fair among all the candidate bases.”

Thunderbird School of Global Management will break ground 3:30 p.m. Nov. 12 on the restoration of a historic airfield control tower that helped American, British and Chinese pilots train during World War II. Construction will begin shortly afterward on a project that will turn Thunderbird Tower into a social hub with state-of-the-art facilities for dining, shopping, playing and relaxing.
The Tower, originally built in 1941, closed in January 2006 because of structural damage. Thanks to a student-led grassroots campaign called “Save the Tower” that collected more than 500 contributions, the Tower will get a second life when renovation is completed in November 2011. Contributions include a $2 million pledge from Miriam Hinrichs in recognition of her husband, Thunderbird Trustee and 1965 Thunderbird graduate, Merle A. Hinrichs.Mayor Elaine Scruggs, City Councilmember Steve Frate and WWII veteran Donald Marsey will be in attendance. Marsey trained at Thunderbird 1 Army Air Field in 1943.

The ceremony also will feature the Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard presenting the colors during the national anthem. Tower and campus tours will be offered to the public starting at 3 p.m.

The renovation project will turn the Thunderbird Tower into the epicenter of the global campus. Once restored, the building will include a student union, the Thunderbird Pub, ThunderShop and an alumni/veterans gallery to display and preserve memorabilia that tells the story of Thunderbird’s rich history. Plans include sustainable building practices that will help the restored building qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

To donate or for more information about the project, visit

    • Luke makes final F-35 list
      -From The Glendale Star Nov. 5, 2009
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Last Thursday, West Valley officials received a memorandum form lobbyist Steve Hyjek of Hyjek & Fix in Washington, detailing a briefing by the U.S. Air Force about its first round of basing decisions for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.Hyjek said Luke Air Force Base was among three active duty installations listed as candidates for the USAF training mission. The other two bases were Eglin Air Force Base (already designated as the initial JSF joint training site) and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico (a planned recipient of the F-22 Raptor, located near Alamogordo).

Boise and Tucson Air National Guard facilities were listed as Reserve Component bases for potential sites for F-35 training.

Active Duty and Reserve Component bases will compete within their own category for varying missions rather than as a group of five bases.

Hyjeck said, “We are advised that the Air Force list briefed to Congress was broken into Active Duty and Reserve Component sites. These bases were then broken into Training and Operational candidate sites.”

In response to the news release from the Air Force, Mayor Elaine Scruggs said, “We are pleased that Luke Air Force Base has been selected as a finalist for the F-35 mission. We’re looking forward to beginning the environmental impact statement process, which is the next step in Luke being selected as the home of this next generation fighter.

“Based on the Air Force’s F-35 basing criteria, Luke is perfectly positioned to receive this mission. Luke’s training environment cannot be replicated anywhere else in the country. Since 1941, Luke’s mission has been to serve as a training base for America’s fighter pilots and our allies, and we do not expect that role to change.

“There is still a lot of work ahead of us, so we encourage residents throughout Arizona to register their support of the F-35 mission coming to Luke online at

“The F-35 training mission at Luke has overwhelming support from cities throughout the region, the Valley and the state. In addition, we have received support from Arizona’s entire congressional delegation, Governor Brewer, and from many Valley business and community leaders. The message is clear: Arizona wants the F-35.”

A “short list” of Preferred Alternatives will be developed for release in early 2010, in conjunction with the release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This will follow a data -gathering and evaluation process previously outlined in a USAF briefing provided to Congress and the public in September (a copy of which was provided to the West Valley Partners).

The Air Force will utilize the Basing Criteria released in September as the methodology for developing the “Preferred Alternative” sites which will be identified in the Draft EIS in 2010.

Congressional staff was advised that, for purposes of this evaluation process, Operational base candidates would not be considered for Training missions. However, Training bases may be considered for future Operational missions as follow-on phases of F-35 Basing plans are announced. As a result, Luke could be considered for the Training mission now and potentially could be examined in future phases for an Operational mission.

A trip to Washington

Peoria Intergovernmental Affairs Director John Schell joined other Arizona officials, Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett, Attorney General Terry Goddard, and Deputy Attorney General Greg Stanton in Washington, D.C. to meet this past Monday with Air Force civil engineer Kathy Ferguson, who is also Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for installations. The delegation scheduled a Tuesday meeting with staff of Arizona’s congressional delegation to review the Air Force plan of action.

Goddard expressed appreciation last Friday 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.”

More on El Mirage

In related news, Schell talked about the Oct. 22 forum held at Riverview Elementary School in El Mirage, where an estimated 150 people attended. Schell said an area in the front of the auditorium was roped off to separate El Mirage residents from the rest of the crowd.

“The low light of the meeting was discussion about sound and the demonstration they put on,” Schell said. “They had a large audio-video system and they played a sound of an F-35 flying overhead and they amplified this in the auditorium. After they played it loudly, an elderly lady in the front row quipped, ‘Is that all you’ve got?'”

The aviation consultant was someone from Tempe, Schell said, at a time when the Cardinals were seeking approval for its stadium in that city.

Schell said there was a 30-minute presentation on sound, and then, the presenter was asked about the sound effect on the human ear, and he said, “I’m not a sound expert.”

Schell said he talked with the presenter after the meeting and asked him how close the plane was to the ground when the sound was recorded and the presenter said he was not sure.

“He also didn’t know where the person who recorded it was standing,” Schell said. “He thought it was across the fence at the end of the runway.

“The lowest they fly over El Mirage outside is 1,500 feet, not inside an enclosed, brick building. So, the sound demonstration was clearly presented as ‘this is what an F-35 sounds like over El Mirage.'”

Schell said, “It’s kind of hard to take them seriously when someone is not a sound expert, and amplified way beyond what could be expected.

“They were handing out small plastic bags with earplugs as people entered. That kind of publicity stunt does not engender a spirit of collaboration between El Mirage officials and their neighboring West Valley communities.”

Public meeting in El Mirage Nov. 10

Because of many questions and concerns_that arose over the factual content of the Oct. 21 demonstration of the noise generated by the new F-35 jets, there will be a formal presentation on this subject.

The public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Pueblo El Mirage Resort, Main Banquet Room, 11201 N. El Mirage Road. Organizers said anyone living near Luke Air Force Base will want to attend this meeting.

Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions upon completion of the presentation.

    • Luke’s place on F-35 finalist list buoys base support
      -From Daily News-Sun/ by Staff Report Oct. 30, 2009
      Download a PDF
    • Luke AFB named finalist for F-35 fighter
      -From Daily News-Sun/ by Staff Report Oct. 29, 2009
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      or Download a PDF

Luke Air Force Base has been chosen a finalist in an Air Force review of potential bases for the new F-35 fighter.

State and local officials have been strongly promoting Luke as a training site for the next-generation joint strike fighter. Currently, Luke is the world’s largest training base for F-16 pilots. The F-35 is a replacement for the F-16.

Sen. John McCain said in a statement today that the decision recognizes the capabilities that Luke provides for the F-35 and the strong support in the state for its basing here.

Congressman Trent Franks, a Republican representing Arizona’s 2nd District, said he is “very pleased that the Air Force appreciates all that Luke AFB has contributed and continues to offer the Department of Defense. Luke’s robust and modern infrastructure provides the Department of Defense with a site that is extremely well-suited to fifth generation fighter tactics and training.”

Earlier this month, all 10 members of the Arizona congressional delegation sent a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz in which the delegation reiterated Luke’s ideal candidacy for the JSF, stating their belief that “Luke AFB is indeed a national asset suitable for current and future missions,” Franks stated in the release.

“Since 1941, Luke has produced more than 55,000 graduates from fighter training programs for the U.S. and its allies and is truly ‘The Home of the Fighter Pilot,’ Franks said.

According to Franks, the Air Force evaluated more than 200 Air Force sites. Once the official announcement is made, the congressman said “the formal environmental impact analysis process will begin, allowing communities around each candidate base to participate and provide input. Based on the results of these efforts, the Air Force expects to announce the JSF preferred locations in late spring 2010.”

The other finalists include active training bases Eglin and Holloman. Hill, Mountain Home and Shaw/McEntire complete the line-up of finalists.

Luke Air Force Base employs more than 8,000 people and contributes in excess of $2 billion annually to Arizona’s economy, the board stated in a release.

Luke is the world’s largest F-16 training base.

The F-35 will replace the F-16, the Air Force’s primary fighter-bomber.

Arizona’s 10 congressional delegates formally request F-35 training at Luke AFBArizona’s 10-member congressional delegation — including Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl — are joining the push to bring new F-35 fighter jet training to Luke Air Force Base.
The F-35 is succeeding the F-16 in the U.S. military arsenal. Luke is an F-16 pilot training center, and as that jet is being phased out, the Arizona officials are asking the U.S. Air Force to bring F-35 training to the Glendale base.

McCain, Kyl and the state’s eight U.S. House members — including Republican Trent Franks, whose congressional district includes Luke — wrote to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley with their request. They pointed to Luke’s training history and the Barry M. Goldwater Range near Gila Bend, which is used for test flights and other exercises. They also point to state and local laws and restrictions on encroaching development around Luke.
The Air Force is considering a number of bases throughout the U.S. for F-35 training.

Taking center stage on an issue that has long been dear to her heart, Gov. Jan Brewer announced a campaign to help make Luke Air Force Base the primary training complex for the military’s F-35 Lightning joint-strike fighter.

Brewer, a longtime Glendale resident who said she often hears the “sound of freedom” as F-16s fly over her house, has been a vocal supporter of the base throughout her 26 years in public office and was a founding member of the Fighter Country Partnership, an advocacy group for the base. Brewer said it’s critical to bring the new fighter to Luke to help the base maintain its mission and to ensure Arizona’s economic future.

She said the Luke Forward campaign will help convey to the U.S. Department of Defense that Luke Air Force Base has the full support of the community and is the ideal location for the F-35.

“Frankly, no other area in the country can compare to the size, scope and outdoor training ability,” Brewer said in an Oct. 14 press conference at the Executive Tower. “Given our state’s current economic condition, this stable, recession-proof industry needs to be maintained and strengthened.”

Taking the stage with Brewer were representatives from a number of West Valley cities, including Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs. Like Brewer, Scruggs focused on the assets that she feels makes Luke the best choice for the Air Force and the F-35 – strong infrastructure, state laws crafted to protect Luke from nearby development and the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, a 2.7 million acre training area for pilots from the base.

Scruggs also joined Brewer in emphasizing the base’s economic importance to Arizona.

“Luke is sort of a mini stimulus package every single year for businesses in Arizona. So we’re asking you to let our military’s decision-makers know that Arizona and Luke Air Force Base are mission ready,” she said.

Charley Freericks, chairman of the Fighter Country Partnership, said Luke employs about 8,000 people, and another 80,000 retired employees in the Valley rely on the base for services such as shopping and health benefits.

For many years, Luke has been the primary training base for the Air Force’s F-16 Falcon. Brewer noted that the F-16, however, is being phased out of service, and said the consequences for Luke could be dire if the F-35 is not brought in to replace it.

“You all know what will happen to Luke. It will be probably closed down. We will lose that $2.7 billion into our economy, and we will not be the premier base that trains fighters to protect us from our enemies,” she said.

The campaign is aimed at generating support for the F-35 among members of the public, business leaders and elected officials. Two high-ranking elected officials, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Trent Franks, are on board.

Scruggs read prepared statements from McCain and Franks. McCain wrote that he is committed to ensuring that there is a full study of the environmental impacts, but also called
Luke a “critical national aspect” and said he is confident that the military will take the necessary steps to mitigate the environmental impact of the F-35.

“I look forward to working with you all to make sure that the success story we have written for our nation’s military assets in Arizona is understood back in Washington,” McCain wrote.

Franks said he believes Luke’s mission is vital to both the community and to the continued security of the United States. He touted the base’s attributes and qualifications as the home of the F-35.

Fighter Country Partnership, an advocacy group for Luke Air Force Base, is launching a Web site this month to give people the opportunity to show support for the base and its mission. The Glendale base, which is the largest fighter wing and the only active-duty F-16 training site in the world, is on a quest to land the military’s new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet.

The Web site,, provides updated information about Luke, the Joint Strike Fighter and the process for selecting a home for the new jet.

“What we hope to do is keep in close contact with all of our supporters and send e-mails out to everyone who’s registered to keep them informed of what the steps are, how we’re doing, any issues that might be coming up and any help they might be able to offer,” said Steve Yamamori, executive director of Fighter Country Partnership.

The organization also has speakers who are willing to travel anywhere in Arizona to give a briefing about how important the F-35 is for the state, Yamamori said.

Imaginary Trout, a Phoenix-based Web design and management firm, donated its services to create the site.

“They’ve done a great job of being able to capture all the letters of support and all the individuals who come on and show their support,” Yamamori said. “If you go online and register, it pops up in a matter of minutes.”

Hundreds of residents and elected officials from across Arizona have already signed up on the site.

“It’s actual proof of just how much impact Luke Air Force Base has on not just the West Valley, but all throughout the state,” Yamamori said.

With year-round flying capability, Luke performs more than 150 training missions a day. It also contributes more than 7,000 jobs and $2.17 billion annually to the local economy.

“Luke AFB is a consistent economic powerhouse that does not see the peaks and valleys, the booms and busts, of many other economic contributors,” Litchfield Park Mayor Thomas Schoaf wrote in a letter.

The base also has an impact on the surrounding community, with personnel volunteering more than 100,000 hours a year at local schools, churches, youth sports leagues and nonprofit organizations, Yamamori said.

Air Force officials last month announced additional criteria that will be weighed when deciding where to permanently place the new F-35s. The jets will eventually replace at least 13 types of aircraft, including the F-16s, which are scheduled to remain in service with the Air Force through 2025.

Until recently, Luke had been up against only one other base, Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. Plans were later expanded to examine all bases nationwide and add more criteria to the selection process.

Now being taken into consideration is airspace, flight training ranges, weather, support facilities, runways, taxi ramps, environmental concerns and cost factors.

“It’s very impressive how Luke is positioned for the next F-35,” said Steve Yamamori, executive director of Fighter Country Partnership. “I think proof of the matter is that we are home to the largest fighter wing in the world, and that’s for a reason. We have the infrastructure, we have the weather, we have the community support already well evidenced here at Luke. I think we stack up extremely well, and I’d say we are the base to beat.”

More than 200 potential sites will be evaluated. Once that is complete, other factors will be measured, such as combatant commander requirements, aircraft retirements and delivery schedules, aircraft maintenance and logistics support and integration with the Air National Guard and Reserve.

Supporters of Luke say it is uniquely positioned to take on the F-35 mission because of its proximity to the Barry M. Goldwater Range, which comprises 2.7 million acres owned by the federal government and is used for bombing and gunnery training.

“Generations of joint service fighter aircraft have used this range for decades to achieve the highest levels of combat capability,” Goodyear Mayor Jim Cavanaugh wrote. “This is not the time to change as we enter the era of the fifth-generation fighters, F-22 and F-35.”

After the release of the candidate bases, a formal environmental impact analysis process will begin, allowing communities to participate and provide input.

Based on the results, the Air Force expects to announce the preferred locations in late spring next year. A final decision could be made in early 2011.

    • Luke air base gathering citizens’ support on Web
      -From Daily News / Sun – Your West Valley by Mitchell Vantrease Oct. 2, 2009
      Read More
      or Download a PDF

Susan Warwick and her husband, Kim, always have loved when the F-16 fighter jets from Luke Air Force Base fly over their Sun City West home.

“People complain about the noise, but those planes mean the world to us because it’s the sound of freedom,” said Susan Warwick. “There are phenomenal men and women up there protecting us every day and that makes us feel safe.”

The Warwicks recently showed their support for Luke Air Force Base by having their names published on a Web site, The web page registers community support for the Glendale facility through the Fighter Country Partnership.

More than 400 people along with cities, town and other organizations have registered on the site. In addition, it’s an opportunity for people to tell others of their support of making Luke an F-35 training ground.

Luke is considered by most communities in the West Valley to be a vital cog for national defense and also as a major player in the area’s economy.

As development has moved closer to Luke, community leaders have banded together to keep that growth from jeopardizing the base’s future. Absent from that alliance has been El Mirage, whose former Mayor Fred Waterman came under fire from other elected officials for questioning their integrity in dealing with Luke issues as well as expressing concern that the base was crimping his community’s potential for growth.

Since Waterman’s resignation last month, El Mirage has softened its stand regarding the base.

City officials said Thursday that they are continuing to study the potential noise impact on the community of F-35 jets, which Luke Air Force Base is campaigning to bring to its West Valley installation.

Through its public relations firm, the city said: “Despite concerns and opposition emanating from Virginia, Florida and, most recently, Tucson, about increased noise levels of the F-35 fighter aircraft, El Mirage has not yet taken a position opposing the F-35.”

Luke Air Force Base supporters are in the process of organizing a promotional campaign encouraging the Air Force to locate the F-35 to replace the current F-16. However, most indications are that the F-35 will be louder than the F-16, but the levels are being debated and analyzed around the country.

El Mirage Government Relations Director Pat Dennis has sent a request for F-35 studies, details and other related material to her counterparts in West Valley cities.

Nancy Bierman, a Sun City West resident, said she isn’t concerned about the noise level of the F-35s.

“I have to give the men and women of Luke credit for protecting us and the sound that I hear won’t bother me because they’re doing their best to protect us,” said Bierman, who also has signed up on the Web site to support Luke.

Residents can now show their support for Luke Air Force Base and the F-35 fighter jet online.

Fighter Country Partnership, a community support group for the military installation, has set up a page on its Web site for people to register their support. The names are published.

“We haven’t officially launched the site and we already have more than 300 registered supporters,” said Steve Yamamori, executive director. “We will launch in mid-October.”


Tell decision makers in Washington, D.C., that there is tremendous community support for Luke becoming a training base for the new F-35 and its military personnel, Yamamori said.


The Air Force is scouting possible bases for F-35 pilot training. Luke is phasing out its F16s and needs the next generation of fighter jets to ensure it stays operational in the future.


Luke Air Force Base pumps $2.17 billion a year into the state’s economy.


Nearly 400 people registered their support of Luke and the F-35 since last Friday. Registrants include elected officials, city employees, year-round and winter residents from across the Valley.


Because space is at a premium in Singapore, that country has been training its F-16 pilots for over 17 years at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

Originally, Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) pilots leased F-16A/B aircraft from the USAF. Now they have F-16C/Ds of their own and they actively participate in US-sponsored exercises and joint training. Singapore’s current arsenal of F-16s number 70 Fighting Falcons, 62 of which are advanced F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft, according to

The Singapore government is seeking to continue that training tradition…

Singapore is asking the US government to continue its F-16C/D pilot proficiency training program at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona under the Peace Carvin program, as well as purchase munitions, services and support for the F-16C/D aircraft. The estimated cost of the request is $250 million.

The Singapore request, which was notified [PDF] to the US Congress by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency on Sept 9/09, includes: 35,000 20mm cartridges, aircraft modification kits, maintenance, participation in joint training exercises, fuel and fueling services, supply support, flight training, spare and repair parts, support equipment, program support, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support.

Also, Singapore is requesting to undertake pilot proficiency training at Springfield Air National Guard Base in Ohio. The training would involve leased F-16 aircraft from the USAF. The estimated cost of the training and support is $75 million.

This request, which was also notified [PDF] to the US Congress by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency on Sept 9/09 includes: services and support, training munitions, maintenance, fuel and fueling services, supply support, flight training, spare and repair parts, support equipment, program support, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support.

In its announcements, DSCA explained that the proposed foreign military sales:

”…will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the U.S. by helping to improve the security of a critical regional partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for economic progress in Southeast Asia. This proposed sale will help augment the Republic of Singapore’s self-defense capability and will ensure interoperability with U.S. forces coalition operations. Singapore is a firm supporter of U.S. overseas contingency operations.”

Note that these notifications mean that contracts will be concluded for the requests, unless the US Congress successfully intervenes to block specific sales within a 30-day period.

by Senior Airman Tong Duong
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona. — Over the last 14 years a local, non profit organization has played a vital part in helping to give back to Airmen and their families at Luke Air Force Base, in more ways than one.

The Fighter Country Partnership is an organization that was founded in 1997 by a group of concerned civic, business and elected community members who wanted to ensure Luke’s future in Arizona.

That mission to protect Luke remains strong today, according to Nancy Arreola, FCP office manager.

“Our goal is to provide a high level of support for the men, women and families of Luke while protecting and enhancing the base’s mission to train the world’s greatest F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots and maintainers,” Ms. Arreola said.

The FCP has raised community awareness of the importance of Luke to the local and state economy as well as the base’s important role in national security. Ongoing partnerships with citizens, local employers and municipal leaders are critical to keeping the Luke mission a priority in the minds of decision-makers and all Arizonan’s, she said.

With more than 300 members ranging from business professionals, elected officials, military veterans and retirees, as well as a diverse group of other local citizens, FCP provides funding for many programs that help Luke Thunderbolts such as Operation Thunderbox, Luke Airman Fund and the Unit Spouse and Family Fund.

“Many of these important programs might not otherwise be funded due to the drastic budget cutbacks the Air Force has recently experienced,” Ms. Arreola said. “FCP also provides financial and manpower support at events such as the Luke Day’s Open House, the Air Force Ball, Airmen of the year awards ceremony and other community outreach programs.”

According to Steve Yamamori, FCP CEO and executive director, the Fighter Country Foundation was founded in 2006 to honor, serve and support the men and women of Luke with programs designed to aid, educate and integrate them for the duration of their stay in the community. The foundation has recently been added to the Combined Federal Campaign as a benefactor in the program.

FCP’s programs have been very effective in meeting the needs of Luke families and are finding new and strategic ways to be more successful every day, Ms. Arreola said. FCP has joined forces with 13 West Valley municipalities and Maricopa County to launch Luke Forward, a community-based effort to show support for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as a follow on mission to the F-16. More information about Luke Forward is available at

For more information on supporting the men, women, families and mission of Luke, call (623) 882-2191 or visit

Stimulus-funded improvements are under way at Luke Air Force Base, and Arizona small businesses received the bulk of contracted work.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 designated $15.3 million for infrastructure improvements at the Glendale military operation. Most of the work involves repatching cracked runways and making electrical systems more energy-efficient.

When choosing companies to complete the repairs, members of the base’s contracting unit kept in line with a Department of Defense goal to “maximize small business participation,” according to the agency’s Recovery Act plan.

“The focus was on awarding local contractors as much as possible,” said Lt. Col. John Thomas, the base’s chief civil engineer.

Luke awarded around $12 million worth of contracts to four Phoenix-area firms that are classified by the federal Small Business Administration as disadvantaged or minority-, woman- or disabled person-owned small businesses.

Base staff had $15.3 million to spend on 28 projects but chose low contract bids and came in more than $2 million under budget.

Thomas said the savings likely mean that the base will be awarded an additional $1.7 million by November to complete three more projects. He added that small businesses would likely be given preference for those additional contracts.

Despite Luke’s effort, August data released by the SBA shows the federal government fell short of its goal to award 23 percent of its contracts to small businesses in fiscal 2008. Federal agencies came in at 21.5 percent instead.

The four small businesses that won the bulk of Luke’s Recovery Act contracts are:

• Name: MRM Construction Services Inc.

• Background: Established in 2002 and based in Phoenix. Is classified by the SBA as a Hispanic- and woman-owned small business. The owner is Marie Torres.

• Value of contracts awarded: $6.9 million

• Work to be done: Will repave roads and runways.

• Name: Sunset Air Inc.

• Background: Established in 1989 and is based in Phoenix. Is classified by the SBA as a Hispanic- and woman-owned small business. Martha Smith is the president.

• Value of contracts awarded: $3.2 million.

• Work to be done: Will install new air conditioning systems that would make the base more energy-efficient.

• Name: Utility Construction Co. Inc.

• Background: Established in 1992 and is based in Mesa. Is classified by the SBA as a disadvantaged- and woman-owned small business. Suzette Nickum is the president.

• Value of contracts awarded: $1.5 million.

• Work to be done: Will replace lighting around the airfields and repair water systems.

• Name: Affiliated Western Inc.

• Background: Established in 1986 with offices in Chandler and Nevada. Is classified by the SBA as a Native American and disabled veteran-owned small business. Howard Joe Lawler is the president.

• Value of contracts awarded: $1.2 million.

• Work to be done: Will repair power and communications equipment.

    • Veteran warns El Mirage mayor
      -From Glendale Star – Letters to the Editor by Tim Hoffman, CWO US Army, retired, Sep. 10, 2009
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    • Arizona mayors pass resolution in support of military installations
      -From Glendale Star by Carolyn Dryer, Sep. 10, 2009
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More than 90 mayors from cities and towns across Arizona passed a resolution submitted by the cities of Peoria and Yuma, in support of the state’s military installations during the League of Arizona Cities and Towns conference held in Tucson last week. The resolution will be presented to the state Legislature along with a request for the state’s lawmaking body and the governor to “continue their support of policies that strengthen the mission viability of Arizona’s military installations.”

John Schell, director of intergovernmental affairs for the City of Peoria, said El Mirage Mayor Fred Waterman asked to have an amendment to the resolution that would remove the words “future mission,” but the 90-plus mayors declined his request.

Glendale Vice Mayor Manny Martinez commented on Waterman’s attempt at amending the resolution: “I didn’t agree with Mayor Waterman’s amendment and that the resolutions committee had done its due diligence and we should not support the amendment and leave it as it is.”

Cited in the resolutions was language that the mayors said would “continue activities at the sate level that enhance the mission viability of Arizona’s military installations.”

The resolution also referred to the military industry as a “key component” of local, regional and state economies.

There are five major military installations across Arizona: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca, Luke Air Force Base, Yuma Army Proving Grounds and Marine Corp Air Station – Yuma.

The resolution also stated: “Arizona has long been considered a model state for how it has passed laws to protect the missions of its military installations throughout the years …

“The effect of this resolution would be to encourage state lawmakers to stand behind these protections and improve upon them whenever possible, especially those that may arise from future mission requireents.. It is especially important that state and local leaders not take steps that could weaken protections or programs already in place should these come under challenge due to alternative interpretation of state statutes or as a result of pressures from incompatible development.”

As to the military installations’ relevance to municipal policy, the resolution stated: “Military bases in Arizona exert a profoundly positive social and economic impact on local governments throughout the state. At Luke Air Force Base alone, Base personnel volunteered over 100,000 hours in the community and entertained over 200,000 visitors for open house visits during 2007. Supporting the statutory protections and programs of Arizona’s military also helps to strengthen the operations of our state’s military bases. In this manner, we protect a constant and stable revenue source that stands impervious to fluctuations or downturns in the economy …’

A state-funded study was released July 21, 2008 in Tucson, entitled ‘Economic Impact of Arizona’s Principal Military Operations – 2008,” the resolution cited, In that report, the economic contributions of Arizona’s major military installations were detailed.

The report stated: “Arizona’s military operations are increasingly important to the state’s economy, creating and supporting tens of thousands of jobs and generating more than $9 billion in revenue every year.”

Report writers said the report “examines the impact of the facilities themselves as well as other economic activity generated by their presence.”

The report continued: “The military, like other industry sectors in our economy, contracts for services and spends for operations, which is another key part of our state’s economy. This generates private sector jobs while adding $401 million in tax payments that keep our communities and state moving forward, ”

About 100 people attended a grassroots community meeting in El Mirage this week – mostly to show they don’t agree with the direction that the city’s leaders are taking with Luke Air Force Base.”For the last 25 years I’ve lived near a base,” said resident Kathy Franz on Wednesday at Pueblo El Mirage. “I feel safe. I moved here for a reason. I speak for a lot of my neighbors, we want you here.”

She also asked “what can we do to calm our mayor down?” which drew claps from the audience.

El Mirage has angered its neighbors since March after city officials traveled to Washington, D.C. to seek relief from zoning restrictions imposed to protect the Glendale base from encroachment. City leaders asked for $400 million in federal compensation and continue to push their case for economic sustainability. Others see it as a threat to the base’s need to secure the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the F-16s are phased out.

Rusty Mitchell, director of Luke AFB Community Initiatives Team, said the base is at the mercy of elected officials and their decision-making.

“I’m not going to answer your question other than to say all of the support matters, whether it’s an individual citizen or an elected mayor,” Mitchell said.

One man in the audience piped up that residents can vote out Mayor Fred Waterman if he runs for re-election next August.Waterman lives in Pueblo El Mirage but did not attend the meeting. However, his wife, Carol, and Vice Mayor Michele Kern attended but neither spoke.

“Out where I live F-16s fly over my pool and my son and I love them, absolutely love them,” said Dave Hodges of El Mirage.

That said, Hodges said he received a noise study on the F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base in Valparaiso, Fla., which he said shows possible hearing damage from the jets. The April study came from a recording engineer in April.

“Please tell me, it’s not true,” Hodges said. “I am fine with the F-16. If the F-35 is only a little noisier then we need to work together and save Luke.”

Mitchell said it was premature to talk about the F-35’s impacts at Luke because the Air Force has not chosen a secondary training base.

Anecdotally, Mitchell said he was at Eglin when manufacturer Lockheed Martin brought an F-35 test plane to the base.

“That F-35 to me didn’t sound any different,” he said. “It sounded like any other fighter aircraft.”

Dan Reilly, a retired Air Force veteran, said if the base goes away, many retirees would lose base services, such as medical care and retail shopping at the base exchange, where most state and local taxes are not imposed.

After the meeting, Frantz said if the base closes the city will be left with “a lot of empty houses.”

“If the mayor keeps pushing them and we lose the people who work on the base . . . El Mirage will disappear,” Frantz said. “I am sorry I voted him in. I am so sorry.”

    • El Mirage resident rallies support for Luke
      -From Peoria Times by Carolyn Dryer, Sep. 4, 2009
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Lana Mook lives in the same subdivision, Pueblo El Mirage Golf Resort, as El Mirage Mayor Fred Waterman. But their opinions about Luke Air Force Base are worlds apart.

Mook said she moved here 25 years ago with my first husband. She recently retired (November 2006) and moved to El Mirage.

“My dad and brother were in the service,” she said. “My niece came to live with us in high school. She wanted to be a pilot. She is a senior now at the Air Force Academy and she earned a pilot’s spot.

“I am just very disturbed by what I see in the news in El Mirage politically, so I decided to research it.”

She went to the El Mirage City Council meeting Aug. 27 and spoke during the public comments section.

“I had prepared a three-minute speech and I got up there and I said my piece” Monk said.

In her comments, Mook talked about her conversations with 50 other El Mirage residents “who are concerned about the direction the council has taken regarding Luke Air Force Base. I understand the need for El Mirage to be proactive in developing methods of increasing city income, what you have been doing does not represent me or the other residents I know.”

Mook said the city’s actions have “alienated the entire West Valley and El Mirage has become a laughingstock to the rest of the state.”

Mook added, “You are jeopardizing the viability and future productivity of Luke AFB, which contributes over $2 billion a year to this state’s economy. A huge number of snowbirds come to our area because it is close to Luke. They utilize the base for health care, prescriptions, commissary, optical and dental services, not to mention stores, churches, gas, banking, credit union and even such minor services such as haircuts. There are lots of other places outside of Arizona they could chose to go if Luke ceased to exist or significantly decreased the benefits these retired military families are entitled to.”

Last Friday during a phone interview, Mook said, “We are in direct line with Luke’s runway, so we have a lot of aircraft landing because of the wind.

But I’m very, very concerned the fact there’s a lot of misinformation about Luke and the F-35. And there’s a lot of things being said about the F-35.

It’s nonsense.

“I plan to do everything I can to spread the word for people wanting to learn what’s going on out here. I’m going to do everything I can to stop these people.”

Mook hosted a meeting Sept. 2 at Pueblo El Mirage’s banquet room for the public to hear from Rusty Mitchell, director of the Community Initiatives Team at Luke AFB.

After giving an overview of Luke’s mission, the number of personnel employed at the base and its economic impact on Arizona, Mitchell fielded questions from the approximately 100 people in the audience. Just one person questioned the possible harmful auditory effect the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could have on his child. Other than the father’s comments, the majority of those in attendance asked how they could help support Luke.

Mitchell said the most important thing they could do is attend forums like the one Wednesday evening if Luke is selected as a bed-down base for the F-35. He said an environmental impact study would be conducted to measure support for Luke in that event.

    • Luke backers get together
      -From Your West Valley by Mitchell Vantrease, Sep. 3, 2009
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Kathy Franz almost cried as she talked about how the fighter jets fly over her home and how they are important to the state and nation.

“I don’t mind the noise when they fly over my house because it’s over in a few seconds,” said Franz. “It’s all for freedom.”

Franz addressed local residents Wednesday night in the Pueblo El Mirage banquet room during an informational meeting about Luke Air Force Base’s mission.

Rusty Mitchell, director of Luke’s Community Initiatives, talked about the base and answered questions.

But Franz said she just wanted to tell Mitchell how much she supports Luke and its mission.

“It’s important that I let the base and everyone else know how much we support them, despite what our mayor has been doing,” Franz said.

She was referring to a letter El Mirage Mayor Fred Waterman wrote to other West Valley mayors questioning their integrity in dealing with base issues. Several West Valley mayors have voiced fears that El Mirage may allow development to encroach on Luke and jeopardize the base’s future.

Pueblo El Mirage resident Lana Mook organized the meeting.

Dave Hodges, who lives north of Surprise, said he wanted to know the potential noise impact if F-35 fight jets are flown at Luke.

“My son and I love watching and hearing the F-16 fighter jets fly over our home. but we’re concerned about the potential damage it could have later,” Hodges said.

Mitchell said Luke hasn’t been chosen yet as a site for the new fighter jets and declined comment.

Luke Air Force Base is in line to get $10.4 million in federal stimulus money, which is earmarked for repairs and improvements which could help the Glendale facility become a training base for the F-35 Lightning II.

The facility is one of two Air Force bases being considered to be the second-tier training base for the F-35, called the Joint Strike Fighter.

The Pentagon will end the F-22 fighter jet and White House helicopter programs but would increase production of the Joint Strike Fighter.

Luke, the world’s largest F-16 training base, is home to the 56th Fighter Wing with 185 F-16 Fighting Falcons and 27 squadrons, eight of which are F-16 fighter squadrons. The wing graduates more than 400 F-16 pilots and 470 crew chiefs annually.

El Mirage resident Linda Grant said she just wants to make sure the base stays protected, even “with the mayor doing the things that he’s done.”

“He’s going a little bit out of control, so I just want to make sure Luke stays protected,” Grant said.

Waterman didn’t attend the meeting because he was at Arizona League of City and Town conference.

    • El Mirage resident leads Luke meeting
      -From Your West Valley by Mitchell Vantrease, Sep. 1, 2009
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      An El Mirage resident will lead an informational meeting tonight about the importance of Luke Air Force Base and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

      Lana Mook is staging the session at 7 p.m. at the Pueblo El Mirage Banquet Room, 11201 N. El Mirage Road and features two speakers “who will be able to speak about the base’s mission.”

      Rusty Mitchell, director of Luke Air Force Base Community Initiatives, is expected to talk about the base’s mission, while Charley Freericks, chairman of the board of Fighter Country Partnership, discusses the F-35, the next generation of fighter jets.

      “It’s important we get the right information out there because I feel that it’s going in the right direction,” Mook said.

      Mook said she’s fed up with the city’s stance of seeking zoning restrictions and money that would affect encroachment upon the base.

      Stacy Pearson, a city spokeswoman, said she encourages residents to attend the meeting. But El Mirage will continue to learn the impact of F-35 fighter jets.

      “It would be irresponsible for us not to take a close look at what this means to the residents and quality of everyone involved,” Pearson said.

      In addition, Mook said she’s disappointed in Mayor Fred Waterman’s actions. He wrote a letter to other West Valley mayors in July that questioned their integrity in dealing with issues involving development surrounding the base.

      “We’re becoming the laughingstock, so it’s time for us to set the record straight,” she said.

    • Chamber supports school district override, Luke as F-35 training base.
      -From Glendale Chamber of Commerce – Pulse, September 2009
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    • McCain affirms support of Luke Air Force Base’s mission
      -From Arizona Republic by Cecilia Chan & Rebekah Sanders, Aug. 31, 2009
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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., this week reiterated his support for Luke Air Force Base in light of one West Valley city’s perceived efforts to derail the military installation.

“We need to do everything we can to protect Luke Air Force Base,” McCain told The Republic at one of his town-hall meetings on health-care reform. “We’re fighting two wars. I hope El Mirage and the City Council will take that into consideration.”

El Mirage has made an all-out push since March to bring attention to its economic struggle with zoning restrictions near Luke. The restrictions are to protect the Glendale base from residential encroachment. El Mirage’s laundry list of requests included $400 million in federal compensation, infuriating the city’s neighbors.

Several West Valley mayors said El Mirage’s demands threaten Luke’s hopes of landing the F-35 jet for fighter-pilot training.

El Mirage spokeswoman Stacy Pearson said the city is simply looking out for the best interest of its residents.

El Mirage contends it is in an economic chokehold, unable to grow due to restrictions on height and density development imposed on more than two-thirds of its land to prevent encroachment on the base.

Leaders of neighboring communities have met with El Mirage leaders to find out how they can help the city while still protecting the base, which pumps $2 billion annually into Arizona’s economy.

Luke supporters said it needs to secure the Joint Strike Fighter to ensure the base stays off the closure list. Luke is the world’s largest F-16 training base but those planes are gradually being phased out.

The Air Force is expected to determine the candidate list for F-35s by October.

PANAMA CITY — Bay County supporters of Tyndall Air Force Base soon will have a new Web site that promotes the base’s capabilities and access to the Gulf of Mexico test range.

The site is an effort to attract future missions to the base, an Applied Research Associates (ARA) executive said Thursday.

Company vice president Glen McDonald said ARA is donating its services, at the request of the Bay Defense Alliance (BDA), to develop the site and hopes to have it up and running within the next 30 days.

“My plan is to give a draft to the BDA board at the next meeting,” McDonald said.

McDonald, a BDA board member and past chairman of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce’s military affairs committee, stressed that the Web site effort came at the BDA’s request and is not sponsored by Tyndall or the Air Force.

The news comes as Tyndall supporters, awaiting word on the fate of the proposed F-15 drawdown at the base, continue to advocate for future missions such as a possible F-35 bed down.

McDonald said the Tyndall site would be modeled after similar Web sites in communities like the one surrounding Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Luke AFB houses the 56th Fighter Wing and serves as a training base for F-16 pilots and maintenance technicians.

The Luke AFB site McDonald referred to,, features information and videos on the F-35, the base’s resources, surrounding community and lists supporters of the base.

The site declares that Luke AFB is contending to be one of the training sites for the F-35 and adds the area could see up to $150 million in construction-related projects if the base were awarded a mission. McDonald said it was his personal goal to outdo any other advocacy Web sites out there.

“We want it to be on the leading edge,” McDonald said.

BDA President Tom Neubauer said he considered Luke AFB to be Tyndall’s number one competitor for any future F-35 mission.

The city of Valparaiso, which borders Eglin Air Force Base, filed a lawsuit against the Air Force in March in U.S. District Court and has sparred with the base over F-35 noise levels.

Bay County community leaders have been lobbying for the F-35 and other missions to replace Tyndall’s two departing F-15 squadrons.

In a June visit to Tyndall, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said the Air Force was focused on resolving the F-35 issue at Eglin Air Force Base, but would consider Tyndall and other bases for any future F-35 bed down.

A Northwest Florida Daily News story Tuesday reported that an Eglin public scoping meeting with proposed alternatives for the F-35 also included an announcement that the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement would be only for the initial 59 aircraft.

Eglin had expected 107 F-35s to arrive, but is now assured of only 59 bedding down.

The Daily News reported that The Air Force made no promises that two other squadrons, an additional 48 aircraft, initially expected to bed down at Eglin would ever come to the base. The additional 48 aircraft were said to be “not authorized for delivery,” according to the Daily News.

Decisions on the additional aircraft will be a part of a “future SEIS” and might end up at another base, said Col. Bruce McClintock, commander of Eglin’s 96th Air Base Wing.

McClintock said it was still possible the other squadrons of F-35s would come to Eglin, but that decision would not be made until 2011 at the earliest and had nothing to do with pending litigation in Valparaiso.

In an e-mail Thursday, Air Force spokesman Gary Strasburg said the Air Force had initiated a comprehensive planning study to consider where to bed down the training, operations and depot maintenance missions for the F-35.

“The process has not developed far enough to include visits to any bases beyond Eglin,” Strasburg said.

Neubauer said he is still hopeful the planned F-15 drawdown at Tyndall will be delayed.

The Air Force announced in May a plan to accelerate the F-15 drawdown by three years, from fiscal year 2013 to FY 2010.

Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, inserted language into the U.S. House’s $636 billion defense appropriations bill to delay the F-15 retirement at Tyndall until the Air Force has provided Congress with detailed reports on the long-term effects of the drawdown.

“That is pretty good language. The Senate bill is a little weaker,” Neubauer said.

Boyd also asked for an independent review, conducted by the Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), on the impact of the Air Force’s restructuring plan and for an Air Force cost-benefit analysis on its proposal to move F-15 training to Kingsley, Ore.

Neubauer said a conference committee on the defense bill would begin after the Labor Day holiday.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to lift a six-month suspension on building permits in an area near Luke Air Force Base. Supervisors put the building permit suspension in place last August after State Attorney General Terry Goddard and several West Valley cities filed a lawsuit against the county to prevent it from allowing residential homes to be built in high-risk potential areas around Luke Air Force Base and its Auxiliary 1 Field.The decision comes just two weeks after Superior Court Judge Edward Burke ruled the county retains zoning authority over the area, but must comply with the statutory restrictions to protect the air base from residential encroachment.

“The judge’s decision clarifies some of the uncertainty over the future ofthe area around Luke,” Supervisor Chairman Max Wilson said. “And it clearly lays out the direction to protect Luke by making sure future property uses do not jeopardize Luke’s mission. This was never about hurting Luke. No one ever wanted to do that.”

According to a separate statement released by county officials: “At issue was a state law, passed in 2004, to regulate development around certain military facilities. Specifically, Maricopa County questioned whether the law eliminated its planning and zoning authority in the areas addressed by the statute and whether the state was responsible for paying any potential future monetary claims.”

In addition, a series of claims from property owners were filed last week on behalf of the property owners by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative policy group. Lawyers for the Goldwater Institute complained the suspension of the building permits adversely affected and reduced the value of those properties and they filed the claims to seek “just

The county will only approve those building permit requests that will comply with the 2004 legislation and is already working to update its Comprehensive Plan and Zoning ordinance to comply with the ruling.

Carrie Ann Sitren, the attorney with Goldwater Institute, who filed the claims for the property owners in the West Valley, responded to the supervisors’ action. “The county has indicated in its statement it is now going to revise its planning and zoning ordinance to comply with state statute. As far as our claims, lifting of the moratorium satisfies those claims. It was one of three ways the county could respond to the claims and it was a great response.”

“In the claims,” Sitren said, “the property owners requested compensation, or alternatively, they requested that the county repeal the land restriction. And, the county has chosen to repeal the land restriction, which was what most property owners preferred. The county’s action returned property owners rights to them, so there’s no need for further action.”

Rusty Mitchell, director of Luke Air Force Base Community Initiatives Team, responded to the moratorium being lifted by saying, “The lifting of the moratorium will be welcome news to landowners around Luke AFB, Aux. 1 and Gila Bend. Throughout today and scheduled to continue tomorrow, we are in discussions with Maricopa County. There is lots of effort being put forth to work out a solution to this situation by everybody that will be beneficial to all parties concerned.”

Reach the reporter, Carolyn Dryer at, or call 623-847-4604.

    • Protection of Luke demands drumbeat of support
      -From Peoria Republic, Z2 Section P MIDWEEK, December 17, 2008
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With a couple of lawsuits hovering around Luke Air Force Base, It’s understandable that Attorney General Terry Goddard would want to reassure brass at the Pentagon of Arizona’s unqualified support for the military base.

And that’s exactly what Goddard and Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett recently did.

Their discussion with Air Force officials centered on local efforts to protect the base from encroachment and the potential of calling Luke the future home of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs’ absence on the trip was noticeable – especially since Glendale lives, breathes and preaches protection of Luke.

Scruggs was invited, but given her previously scheduled engagements and the tough financial times all cities are facing, it makes sense that she opted to turn down the trip.

But Goddard was already in Washington, and he wisely took advantage of an opportunity for a little face time.

Goddard and Barrett met with Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, and Michael B. Donley, secretary of the Air Force, to assuage any potential concerns about the yet unresolved lawsuits about development around Luke Air Force Base.

One lawsuit, filed by Goddard, with support from the cities of Glendale, Peoria, Surprise and others in the West Valley, is aimed at effectively stopping Maricopa County from issuing permits that might threaten the mission of the base and its auxiliary fields.

It was a move meant to defend of the country’s greatest defenders.

Maricopa County has stopped issuing all building permits, awaiting a court decision on its lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of a 2004 state law. The law says that cities and counties must not issue residential building permits in areas affected by the noise of base operations or possible crashes.

The course is expected to soon resolve the entire issue.

And as Valley leaders look ahead to the continued success of Luke Air Force Base, there are reports of plans to take a contingent of West Valley and Arizona officials to Washington to show support for expanding the base mission with the F-35, the next generation of fighter jets.

We have urged the cities and state while waiting for the lawsuit to be decided, to continue to lobby for protections for Luke, including providing for payments to property owners.

They are doing just that.

The defense of the base and other military installations in Arizona is going to require a steady drumbeat of support, a constant reminder that West Valley cities fully back the mission and viability of the base.