HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Hill Air Force Base’s final combat-ready F-35 squadron is now starting to acquire its most important equipment.
According to 388th Fighter Wing spokesman Micah Garbarino, Hill’s 421st Fighter Squadron received its first pair of F-35A Lightning IIs Wednesday. The 421st is the third and final squadron at Hill to receive the next-generation aircraft.
Hill was selected as the Air Force’s preferred home for the F-35 in December 2013 after a four-year environmental review process and the agency’s first operational F-35s touched down at Hill in late 2015.
Since then, the 34th and 4th Fighter Squadrons and their associated aircraft maintenance units have generated nearly 10,000 sorties with more than 15,000 flying hours, Garbarino said.
The new jets brings the total number of F-35s at Hill to 52. Hill currently receives about two planes every month and is scheduled to have their full complement of 78 Lightning IIs by the end of 2019.
The 421st AMU, which support the squadron, began working in earnest in the summer. The unit has been preparing to receive its first aircraft by maintaining and launching jets loaned from Hill’s two other F-35 squadrons.
Lt. Col. Richard Orzechowski, 421st FS commander said pilots and maintainers have been working with one overarching goal in mind: “fulfill the wing’s mission: to rapidly employ combat power.”
Though it hasn’t been built up to strength yet, Hill’s F-35s operation has already deployed several times, including an “in-theater” deployment to Japan in November of 2017. The deployment featured of 12 jets and more than 300 airmen, both stationed at Kadena Air Base. The group returned in May.
The 388th and 419th fighter wings have also been increasing training activity here in Utah.
In November, the two wings completed a combat power exercise that included launching 35 F-35s over about an 11-minute period. The jets headed west for the Utah Test and Training Range and conducted various missions among them, including an in-air refueling operation.
The two wings fly between 30-60 sorties per day from Hill’s flight line.
The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW both fly and maintain the F-35A under a Department of Defense strategy called Total Force partnership. Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex also performs maintenance on all Air Force F-35s.