In a long-awaited development for Hill Air Force Base and the economy of the surrounding area, F-35s have arrived at Hill’s 388th and 419th Fighter Wings.
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the senior Republican in the United States Senate, received a special briefing on the F-35A at Andrews Air Force Base by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the global leader of the F-35 program.
Hatch is credited with working behind the scenes for years to lay the groundwork to bring the F-35 system to Hill, helping to advance the program in the Senate, and working to ensure that Hill and the Utah Test and Training Range possess the sufficient capabilities and capacities to support this weapons system.
“The Air Force and Department of Defense have shown incredible confidence in our state by entrusting us with this vital weapon system,” Hatch said. “The F-35 will lead to thousands of new jobs in Utah, and will ensure that Hill continue to play a pivotal role in our national defense for generations to come.”
(Raw Footage- Hatch touring the F-35)
General Bogdan touted Hatch’s role in bringing the F-35 program to Utah. “I don’t think we could be where we are without him,” he said. “I think Senator Hatch is one of the finest gentlemen I’ve met in my entire life. He’s a fantastic leader, he is an honor to this country, and we need more like him. Second, he has done more in the Senate to dispel rumors about this airplane and to bring the truth and the facts out more than any other statesman I know of. He does it in a way that is trustworthy and credible, he deals with the facts, he gets above the politics, and he is a fabulous supporter of the airplane.”
Senator Hatch in front of the F-35 with Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force
The first two planes arrived on Wednesday, September 2nd, and 70 more will arrive at Hill between now and 2019. The F-35 will be used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, and will replace the F-16 with greater speed and combat range, and lower maintenance costs.
Hill Air Force base currently employs over 20,000 Utahns, and the F-35 is expected to create an additional 2,000 jobs as the complex and the fighter wings. The complex will be responsible for providing maintenance, modification and repair and the fighter wings will house the first operational squadrons for the fifth-generation fighter jet.