BUCKEYE, Ariz. — A pilot is safe after ejecting from his fighter plane west of Luke Air Force Base Thursday morning.
The plane crashed in the unpopulated desert west of Buckeye, approximately 15 miles from the Luke runways, according to a release from Luke Air Force Base.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
“Our Airmen and partners are our most important resource and we are committed to conducting our mission to train the world’s greatest fighter pilots as safely as possible,” said Brig. Gen. Gregory Kreuder, 56th Fighter Wing Commander, in a statement.
The plane appeared to be returning from flying northwest of the Valley in airspace the military uses to teach pilots BFM, or basic fighter maneuvers, according to flight records from Flightradar24, an air traffic monitoring site.
The plane -- a French-built Dassault Mirage F1 -- is owned by Airborne Tactical Advantage Company, or ATAC. The Virginia-based company is one of several that contract with the Department of Defense to provide aggressor training for U.S. and allied pilots. The aggressor pilots fly using tactics, paint schemes and flight profiles similar to those used by U.S. adversaries.
Contractor aggressors, such as the F1 that crashed, are usually flown by experienced, former military pilots who have extensive fighter jet experience.
Luke dubs itself "Fighter Country" -- "Welcome to Fighter Country" is on the base's water tower -- and is one of the busiest training bases in the United States. Both F-35 and F-16 squadrons are based at Luke. Pilots call from all over the world -- including Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Singapore -- to train at Luke.