Hill F-35s over the UTTR

Three U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs, assigned to the 4th Fighter Squadron from Hill Air Force Base, conduct flight training operations over the Utah Test and Training Range on Feb 14, 2018. 

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — A piece of federal legislation that would rename the Utah Test and Training Range after recently retired Republican Congressman Rob Bishop is in the works.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, introduced the bill Monday, according to a press release from the congressman’s office. Stewart said that throughout his time in Congress, Bishop was a “strong and consistent” advocate for Hill Air Force Base and the UTTR.

“No one stood stronger in defense of our men and women in uniform,” Stewart said Monday. “I can’t think of a better way to honor the work and legacy of my good friend than renaming this indispensable military asset after him.”

Situated in Utah’s West Desert, extending into eastern Nevada, the UTTR features the largest contiguous piece of “special use airspace” in the United States, according to a fact sheet from Hill. The facility has an annual operating budget of more than $30 million and has equipment and assets valued at about $1 billion.

Every year, the range host hundreds of training and testing missions for the U.S. Air Force, Army and Marine Corps. The facility is used for everything from the disposal of explosive ordnance, to the testing of experimental military equipment.

The range also serves as a training ground for a host of military exercises. A 2016 expansion of the range, which required an act of Congress, facilitated the testing of “next generation” weapons, like the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, the F-22 and long-range strike bombers.

The effort, which was backed by Bishop, expanded the range by more than 625,000 acres and involved eight pieces of land situated immediately outside the installation’s former boundary in rural Box Elder, Tooele and Juab counties. The expansion deal allowed the Air Force to use land owned by the state of Utah or the Bureau of Land Management to create “buffer zones” for range activities, namely the testing of the aforementioned next-generation weapons systems.

In his final year in office, Bishop was integral in re-funding a $28 million construction project at the UTTR that involved a new mission control center being built there. The money was diverted in 2019 for construction of President Donald Trump’s southern U.S. border wall plan. The project was one of 22 domestic Department of Defense construction projects that were ultimately funded after being put on hold amid the border wall funding shift.

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