F-35A night operations 4

An F-35A Lightning II taxis night flying operations at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, March 26, 2019. 

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force is moving a significant weapons testing program to Hill Air Force Base, which will bring new jobs and according to one federal lawmaker, add to the base’s standing within the Department of Defense.

The Secretary of the Air Force recently approved a move that will send work associated with the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base to Hill. The squadron conducts the Air Force’s “air-to-ground” weapon system evaluation program, which includes mostly bombing activities.

According to an Air Force memo, the move is part of the DoD’s “Strategic Basing Process” and was driven by the fact that the majority of Air Force’s air-to-ground evaluations are actually conducted at Hill.

“Although the Air Force conducts the majority of air-to-ground evaluations at Hill Air Force Base, most of the personnel reside at Eglin Air Force Base,” the memo says.

The Air Force says relocating the squadron to Hill will better align manpower with workload, decrease temporary duty costs and increase Air Force combat readiness.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, was notified of the move Thursday. Bishop said when the operation moves to Hill, it will immediately bring 55 new military jobs to the base. The workload will also eventually create dozens of other civilian and government contractor jobs, Bishop said.

But the congressman says bigger impact is the program itself, because it’s essential to the Air Force’s entire war-fighting operation.

“You have to know that your weapons are going to work,” Bishop said. “This is great news for Hill.”

Most of the work associated with the new squadron will be centered around Hill’s Utah Test and Training Range. The range is the largest contiguous block of supersonic training airspace in the United States. It is frequently used for the disposal of explosive ordnance, testing of experimental military equipment and ground and air military training exercises.

The Air Force says “initial operating capability” in the new squadron will be achieved sometime this summer, with the full operation ready by summer of 2020.

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

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