HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah, Dec. 18, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — The 388th Fighter Wing received its final F-35A Lightning II Wednesday, bringing the total number of aircraft at Hill Air Force Base to 78.
“This is a great milestone,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander, by way of a press release from Hill AFB. “It marks the end of the beginning for us. Since receiving our first aircraft, our Airmen, alongside the 419th Fighter Wing, have remained focused on expanding the combat capabilities of the F-35A.”
The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill in Sept. 2015, the press release said. Since then, the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings have flown more than 17,500 sorties and more than 33,000 flying hours.
The wing’s three squadrons, the 4th, 34th and 421st Fighter Squadrons, now each have 24 primary assigned aircraft with six back-up aircraft, the press release said. The 419th FW’s 466th Fighter Squadron also supports routine F-35 operations side-by-side with the active duty squadrons.
Airmen from the wings are currently deployed on the second combat deployment this year, supporting operations to the Middle East. Over the past three years, the wings have also deployed to the European and Pacific theaters and participated in several large-scale Air Force and international combat exercises, officials said.
“The F-35A is America’s most advanced multi-role stealth fighter and provides 5th-generation stealth, lethality and interoperability,” the press release said. “A ‘tremendous leap’ in aerospace engineering, design and technology, the aircraft collects and delivers more real-time information to the pilot than any other fighter aircraft ever created.”
Hill was chosen to be the home of the Air Force’s first F-35A units because of the total force partnership of the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings, its proximity to the Utah Test and Training Range, the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, the base’s weather, zoning and airspace.
“Receiving the final aircraft this month is a great way to close out 2019, while looking forward to another year full of new challenges, capabilities, and firsts with the F-35,” said Col. Regina Sabric, 419th Fighter Wing commander.
The operational F-35A mission at Hill AFB added more than 400 personnel and generated an estimated $47M to the local economy annually.