Hill AFB now has half its F-35 fleet, 39 more planes coming before end of 2019

Tuesday , July 17, 2018 - 5:15 AM

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The 388th and 419th fighter wings now have exactly half of their F-35 fighter fleet, which means in the next year or so, 39 new combat jets will be touching down at Hill Air Force Base.

Last week, the base received its 39th F-35 Lightning II — halfway to its full complement of 78 aircraft. The 388th Fighter Wing’s Public Affairs office said nearly 8,000 sorties have been launched since the first two jets touched down in September 2015.

The base was selected as the Air Force’s preferred home for the F-35 in December 2013 after a four-year environmental review process.

Since the initial delivery in late 2015, the base has been accepting one to two aircraft each month. Once the full fleet of 78 Lightning IIs is complete, which is expected sometime in 2019, the planes will be divided among three fighter squadrons.

RELATED: 2019 defense budget calls for F-35 uptick; Hill expects more work

On July 9, Col. Joshua Wood took command of the 388th Operations Group, where he will oversee the three combat fighter squadrons and an additional operations support squadron.

“Our Airmen play a vital role in deterring the enemy, and if that deterrence fails, stepping into the gap to rapidly deploy combat air power,” Wood said in a press release.

The F-35 figures to help sustain Hill Air Force Base for years to come. The jet’s predecessor, the F-16, flew out of Hill for nearly 40 years.

The F-35 operation initially brought 260 new positions to the 388th and another 200 reserve positions to the 419th. In addition to the base’s combat flying mission, Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex performs maintenance on all Air Force F-35s and the complex has added hundreds of new maintainers since the jet arrived at Hill.

Since the base was named home for the F-35 in 2013, Hill has received hundreds of millions of federal dollars for new construction and other operations associated with the jet. 

RELATED: Hill airmen, jets deploying to the Pacific

Hill’s F-35s have already deployed several times, including an “in-theater” deployment to Japan in November of 2017. The deployment consisted of 12 jets and more than 300 airmen, both stationed at Kadena Air Base. The group returned in May.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MitchShaw.StandardExaminer.

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