HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- The future of Hill Air Force Base was on full display outside one of the installation's maintenance hangars on Friday.
Members of Utah's congressional delegation along with Hill and other military officials welcomed the first F-35A Lightning II that will receive depot level maintenance at the base.
"This is a huge day in the history of Hill Air Force Base," said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. "The impact this jet will have on Hill Air Force Base and the state of Utah as a whole cannot be overstated."
The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter is a multi-variant, multi-role 5th Generation Fighter, and will undergo organic depot modification work at Hill.
The work will be accomplished under a public-private partnership with the Lockheed Martin aerospace company and the Ogden Air Logistics Complex.
Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin's executive vice president, said her company has been working with Hill for 34 years, ever since the base performed maintenance on their first F-16 in June 1979.
The first F-35 arrived at Hill from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on Sept. 13. It will now undergo post-production modifications at Hill.
Officials at Friday's ceremony said the F-35 will make Hill viable for decades to come.
"We have pilots here that not only will have sons and daughters that could one day fly this plane, but grandsons and granddaughters as well," Lee said. "This is work that will continue here for several decades into the future."
Hill is also listed as the Air Force's preferred alternative for the location of the first two operational squadrons of the jet and a possible third squadron.
The move would bring 72 new jets to the base. Hill currently has two F-16 squadrons and 48 jets.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said F-35s at Hill will help secure future workloads at the base.
Bob Delaney, an executive at Lockheed Martin, said there are already more than 1,000 jobs associated with the jet in Utah, creating an $80 million economic impact. Nationwide, Delaney said, more than 125,000 jobs are associated with the F-35.
The F-35 combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.
The F-35 will eventually replace the A-10 and F-16 for the Air Force, the F/A-18 for the Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least 10 other countries.
While the technological advancements of the jet can't be denied, it was announced earlier this week that landing-gear tires for the Marine Corps version of the fighter have "been experiencing an unacceptable wear rate when operating as a conventional aircraft," according to Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Defense Department's F-35 program office.
The tire problem doesn't seem to have impacted the Air Force's version of the jet, but Rear Adm. Randolph Mahr, who works out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program Office, said the problem is being addressed.
"Like any other aircraft or piece of mechanical equipment, it will need maintenance and overhauls from time to time," he said.
Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.