Hill F-35 launch

Members of the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare to launch Hill Air Force base F-35A Lightning II fighter jets during Red Flag 19-1, Nelllis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 6, 2019.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Hill Air Force Base’s growing fleet of F-35s will soon be seen and heard more frequently in Northern Utah’s night skies.

According to a press release from 388th Fighter Wing spokesman Micah Garbarino, pilots from the active duty 388th and reserve 419th Fighter Wing will increase their nighttime flying operations over the next month, including with the F-35A Lightning II.

The night flying missions will be ongoing through early April, with breaks on the weekends, as well as another stoppage from March 26 to April 1, the release said.

Garbarino said the pilots must fly a certain number of nighttime hours to meet proficiency requirements. He said the increased flying also provides for additional performance evaluation on the aircraft’s “maintenance resiliency and operational agility.”

After receiving its first two F-35s in late 2015, Hill now owns more than 50 combat-ready F-35As spread among three full fighter squadrons. The base will eventually house 78 F-35s when the fleet is filled out later this year.

Garbarino said many residents around Hill are already familiar with the base’s flight patterns, but due to current runway construction, those patterns will change. Communities as far south as Salt Lake City may notice an increase in activity throughout the construction period.

Runway construction will continue through the early summer.

Garbarino said the base now has more F-35s than it has ever had, with plenty of new pilots that need specific training.

Last month, more than 200 airmen from the 4th Fighter Squadron completed an intensive, three-week combat exercise known as “Red Flag.”

The group — which included pilots, maintainers, intelligence officers, weapons crews, support personnel and 12 of Hill’s F-35s — was among nearly 3,000 personnel from 39 units that participated.

The exercise involved realistic combat training that included attack, fighter and bomber aircraft performing missions like air attacks on enemy targets, combat search and rescue, close air support and others.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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