F-35 at night

An F-35A Lighting II taxis at Hill Air Force Base on May 20, 2020.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Fighter pilots from Hill Air Force Base are scheduled to hit the nighttime skies this week, and the roar of their F-35s will be heard later than normal.

Micah Garbarino, spokesman with Hill’s 388th Fighter Wing, said pilots from the active duty 388th and reserve 419th fighter wings will conduct local night-flying operations through Thursday.

Over the next four days, F-35 pilots will fly roughly 80 sorties per day, with the latest flights landing back at Hill at roughly 1 a.m. During night flying operations, pilots typically conclude training by 11 p.m. Pilots from the two wings last completed night flying in two separate training sessions in April and May, sometimes finishing up by 10 p.m.

Garbarino said the latest night flying schedule is based on a number of factors, including exercise objectives, airspace availability on the Utah Test and Training Range, and the availability of other support elements at Hill.

During the week, Northern Utah residents should expect increased noise during the night operations. Hill pilots regularly fly a limited number of night hours to meet Air Force proficiency requirements. Garbarino said pilots are required to train at night to maintain their combat readiness and all-weather capabilities. This week’s exercise will also include combat scenarios created to evaluate aircraft maintenance and operational agility.

“The night operations are limited to what is required for airmen to remain proficient and ready for combat,” 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 in Utah’s west desert also draws aircraft from all over the world.

But the fighter wings perform the bulk of flight operations on base, training to remain combat ready with the F-35. Airmen from both wings are currently deployed to the Middle East with the 421st Fighter Squadron. The other two squadrons are continuing to fly in Utah, Garbarino said, ensuring they are ready to deploy when needed.

In 2015, the Air Force tabbed the base as the first combat-ready F-35 unit in the military. Hill owns and operates 78 F-35As.

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