Hill Commemorates New Era in Combat Air Power
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
"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 ever."