by Nathan Simmons
388th Fighter Wing
10/14/2015 - HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Hill
and the Top of Utah community officially welcomed the F-35 Lightning II
at a ceremony Oct. 14, an event that formally marked the beginning of
F-35 operations for the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings.
Members of the Utah congressional delegation, Lockheed Martin, and the
Air Force addressed a crowd of more than 500 people, which included
Airmen and their families, local civic leaders and the media. Col. David
B. Lyons, 388th Fighter Wing commander, said he was blown away with how
well Hill's F-35s have performed during the first month of flying.
"Since Sept. 2, we've flown our new jets hard. We've flown advanced
handling sorties, pushing the jets further than earlier versions. We've
also flown basic surface attack, air to air intercepts, opposed surface
attack and light suppression of enemy air defenses," Lyons said. "The
airplanes have met all our expectations in the air, but notably, we have
not lost a single flight to a maintenance related issue thus far.
Obviously we can't stay perfect forever, but if our first month is any
indication, this jet is going to be a workhorse."
A common theme addressed by many of the speakers was the increased
threat environment around the world, and the need for air superiority to
meet that threat. Commander of Air Combat Command Gen. Hawk Carlisle
said the security challenges we face today are the greatest we've faced
in our nation's history, and that the F-35 is key to keeping America on
top of the threat.
"The current state of world affairs represents the most complex and
challenging environment our nation has ever faced with respect to
national security challenges across the spectrum," Carlisle said. "The
capability over our adversaries is narrowing, and the potential for a
near-peer conflict is increasing. Not only will the F-35s advanced
capabilities allow us to operate effectively in the anti-access, aerial
denial environment, but the F-35 is a force multiplier. It makes every
other airplane in the battlespace that much better because of what it
brings to the fight."
Utah's senior senator Orrin Hatch said Americans are blessed to live in a
nation that protects its cherished freedoms and liberties, and that the
F-35 makes those liberties even more secure.
"This weapons system will be a powerful deterrent to those enemies who
would tear down our freedom, and destroy our peace," Hatch said. "In
protecting our nation against our foes, we need the F-35 now more than
Utah Senator Mike Lee described modernization as a key ingredient in America's success in defeating its adversaries.
"The success of the U.S. armed services has always depended not only on
the extraordinary bravery of our men and women in uniform, but also on
the superiority of our technology," Lee said. "In one theater after
another we haven't just out-fought our enemy, we've also out-innovated
our enemy, and that's been a key to our success. When it comes to
innovating, testing, training, maintaining America's aircraft, missiles
and avionics, northern Utah has long been our nation's leader."
419th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Bryan Radliff noted in his closing
remarks that those making history don't realize it until after the
moment has passed.
"We are honored to be a part of history. Today we pause to recognize the
sacrifices of our community and our families for your selfless
support," Radliff said. "Our team is strong and steadfast, our past is
robust, but it is your resolute support which allows us to pour our
hearts and souls into ushering in the next chapter in American aviation
exceptionalism - the F-35."
On Dec. 2, 2013, Hill AFB was selected to host the first Air Force
combat units to fly combat coded F-35s. The jet, which arrived at Hill
on Sept. 2, is the first of 72 scheduled to arrive by 2019. The 388th FW
currently has three F-35s, with one or two scheduled to be delivered
each month through 2019.
Earlier this year, the re-activation of the 34th Fighter Squadron marked
an historic milestone for the Air Force, as the unit became the first
operational Air Force unit to fly combat-coded F-35s.