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Northern Utahns will see different, more military aircraft during the next two weeks

By Mitch Shaw standard-Examiner - | Nov 2, 2020

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — For the next two weeks, Northern Utah residents will see an increase of military air traffic.

Residents along the northern Wasatch Front will likely notice different planes — and more of them — flying in and out of Hill Air Force Base while the installation’s two fighter wings lead a large combat exercise and host a weapons evaluation.

Micah Garbarino, spokesperson for Hill’s 388th Fighter Wing, said F-35s from Hill’s 34th Fighter Squadron, along with F-16s from Shaw AFB in South Carolina; AC-130 gunships from Hurlburt Field, Florida; and B-2s flying from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, will all participate in “Weapon System Evaluation Program West,” also known as Combat Hammer.

The two-week evaluation runs from Nov. 2-13. Garbarino said flying could begin as early as 7 a.m. during the first week of training and wrap up as late as 8 p.m. during the second week.

During Combat Hammer, Garbarino said airmen “evaluate every aspect of air-to-ground weapons employment, from building and loading munitions, to aircraft and pilot performance hitting targets” out at the Utah Test and Training Range.

Garbarino said WSEP West is conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron at Hill, which is the only Department of Defense agency that does battle damage analysis of precision guided air-to-ground munitions using real, operational weapons, aircraft, maintenance personnel and aircrew.

While WSEP West is ongoing at Hill, the base’s 4th Fighter Squadron, along with reserve airmen from the 419th Fighter Wing, will deploy 12 aircraft to Tyndall AFB in Florida, as they join other Air Force units for WSEP East — an air-to-air weapons evaluation, and Checkered Flag, a large-force combat exercise, Garbarino said.

Approximately 45,000 flight operations take place at Hill’s airfield every year, according to an Air Force fact sheet, making it one of the busiest flight lines in the military. Aircraft from all over the United States and internationally fly into Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex, which performs maintenance on dozens of aircraft.

Hill’s UTTR also draws aircraft from all over the world. The west desert training range is the largest contiguous block of supersonic training airspace in the United States. It’s frequently used for the disposal of explosive ordnance, testing of experimental military equipment and ground and air military training exercises. The 388th Range Squadron operates and maintains the range.

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