Sunset Launch 4

Two F-35A Lightning IIs taxi during night flying operations at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Aug. 20, 2019. 

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — After wrapping up an exercise last week that involved a major uptick in flying operations, F-35 pilots at Hill Air Force Base are set to begin another round of night flying.

The active-duty 388th and reserve 419th fighter wings finished a local “flying surge” on Sept. 13. The combat exercise featured 240 sorties, or roughly double the amount of flights Hill pilots normally conduct in a week, according to base spokesman Micah Garbarino.

The surge was the first such exercise conducted at Hill since F-35 squadrons returned from deployments in Europe and at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho earlier this year.

“Exercises are necessary to test our readiness ... to learn where we’ll ‘break,’ identify how to fix it, and implement changes,” Lt. Col. Aaron Cavazos, 34th Fighter Squadron commander, said in a press release. “It was good to get the teams back together and prove that we can man and generate a large number of sorties.”

During the surge, pilots flew training missions at the Utah Test and Training Range while base maintenance workers practiced refueling, loading munitions, and keeping aircraft ready to fly. Garbarino said the flying surge came immediately after a base-wide mobilization exercise.

And apparently there’s no rest for the weary, as base pilots will begin conducting another round of night flying operations from Sept. 23-26. Hill pilots previously conducted night-time combat training in mid August.

Garbarino said night operations are limited, with pilots flying just enough to meet certain night-time proficiency requirements. Hill’s two fighter wings are required to train at night to maintain their readiness and all-weather capabilities.

Next week’s night flying is scheduled to be completed by 11:30 p.m.

Garbarino said while a large number of airmen train for combat at home, some members of Hill’s fighter wings remain deployed in the Middle East, conducting combat operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Personnel from Hill are currently stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, to support the United States Air Force Central Command mission in the Middle East.

The collection includes pilots from the active duty 4th Fighter Squadron and Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, as well as active duty and reserve airmen in the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, as well as personnel in other support functions. The group arrived at Al Dhafra in mid-April, but the Air Force has not disclosed when they are scheduled to return home.

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