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Luke AFB retires Block 25 F-16 aircraft

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman David Busby
  • 56 FW/PA

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — Like old soldiers being relieved from their posts, the Block 25 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft have been relieved of duty Sept. 6, 2022, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. This model of aircraft has been imbedded with the 309th “Ducks” Fighter Squadron. A squadron that has successfully led the fight for decades.

“It’s time for our Block 25 F-16s to be retired,” said Maj. Lance “Trap” Tucker, 309th FS commander. “They are some of the oldest F-16s we have in our Air Force. They are close to the end of their airframe life and capabilities-wise they’re not as upgraded as our current Vipers.”

The 309th FS has deep-rooted history within WWII, even producing many aces during that time.

“The 309th (FS) is one of the more historical squadrons in the Air Force,” said Tucker. “In WWII in the European theater, they flew Spitfires, Warhawks and P-51s, fighting mostly in Italy and North Africa.”

With the scope of the Air Force’s mission extending, and the technological systems’ ever advancing, it’s always a matter of time until newer aircraft come to replace the older models.

“It’s a little surreal, to be honest with you,” said Lt. Col. Matthew “Fuse” Eldredge, former commander of the 309th FS. “I can remember as a lieutenant growing up, flying with a lot of guys in F-4s and watching that historic change from F-4s to F-16s. And here I am, 20 years later, watching an F-16 I’ve flown be retired. I’ve gone full circle, and it’s bittersweet. But it’s an awesome opportunity to be the last commander to fly this jet.”

With that in mind, the 309th FS looks forward to the future.

“The 310th Fighter Squadron is scheduled to become an F-35A squadron next year,” said Tucker. “And the 309th (FS) gained newer Block 42 F-16s this summer to replace our Block 25 aircraft. With the F-35 mission expanding, it is time for them (the F-16s) to go to the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group, also known as the Boneyard, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. They’ll be used for spare parts and some will be used for drones or for targets in missile practice.”

For Eldredge, it’s an honor to watch history unfold for the Ducks and the Air Force.

“There are a lot of guys that have come through these doors for training, whether as a new student or a transition student,” said Eldredge. “How many hours and how many landings have they flown in the past? And here we are, flying the last one out. It’s awesome to be a part of that, and to close that chapter in our history, if you will, and to continue with our Block 42 aircraft.”

Just as systems and equipment evolve and grow over time, Luke AFB F-16 student pilots continue to develop, reaching greater heights than ever before. Armed with advanced aircraft, pilots have nowhere to go but up in the 56th FW.