F-35s at Hill Working Well

The first three F-35A jets flying at Hill AFB, Utah, are performing very well and have suffered no canceled sorties due to maintenance, 388th Fighter Wing Commander Col. David Lyons said at an Oct. 14 ceremony officially marking the start of F-35A operations there. “Since Sept. 2, we’ve flown our new jets hard,” Lyons said in his address. Missions flown so far have included? “basic surface attack, air-to-air intercepts, opposed surface attack, and light suppression of enemy air defenses,” he said, and “so far … the airplanes have met all our expectations in the air,” and “we have not lost a single flight” due to a mechanical problem. “Obviously, we can’t stay perfect forever,” he added, “but if our first month is any indication, this jet is going to be a workhorse.” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle said the F-35 will allow the US to operate in anti-access, aerial-denial battlefields and be “a force multiplier,” he said. “It makes every other airplane in the battlespace that much better because of what it brings to the fight.” Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said the jet will be a “powerful deterrent” to US allies, and that he has been “championing the program in the Senate” to bring it to Hill, “even at the expense of ‘harrassing’ three Air Force Secretaries.” Hill was designated the first operational base for the F-35 in December 2013, and is expected to declare initial operational capability with the fighter next August. The base, which will also host the F-35A depot, is expected to have 72 F-35As by 2019. (Base release.)