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Hill AFB fighter wings receive final F-35A Lightning II

A photo of an F-35A Lightning II

A F-35A Lighting II sits on the tarmac at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 18, 2019. The 388th Fighter Wing received its final F-35A Dec. 17. The delivery brings the total number of aircraft at Hill AFB to 78. The wing's three squadrons now have all assigned aircraft. The first operational F-35A arrived at Hill AFB in Sept. 2015, and since then, the active duty 388th and Air Force Reserve 419th Fighter Wings have flown more than 17,400 sorties and more than 33,000 flying hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Kip Sumner)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS) --

Fighter wings at Hill Air Force Base received their final F-35A Lightning II Dec. 17. The delivery brings the total number of aircraft at the installation to 78.

“This is a great milestone,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander. “It marks the end of the beginning for us. Since receiving our first aircraft, our Airmen, alongside the 419th Fighter Wing, have remained focused on expanding the combat capabilities of the F-35A.”

The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in September 2015, and since then, the active duty 388th and Air Force Reserve 419th FWs have flown more than 17,500 sorties and more than 33,000 flying hours.

The 388th FW’s three squadrons, the 4th, 34th and 421st Fighter Squadrons, now each have 24 primary assigned aircraft with six backup aircraft. The 419th FW’s 466th FS also supports routine F-35 operations side by side with the active-duty squadrons.

Airmen from the wings are currently deployed in support of combat operations in the Middle East. Through the past three years, the wings have also deployed to the European and Pacific theaters and participated in several large-scale Air Force and international combat exercises.

“Receiving the final aircraft this month is a great way to close out 2019, while looking forward to another year full of new challenges, capabilities and firsts with the F-35,” said Col. Regina Sabric, 419th FW commander.

The F-35A is America’s most advanced multi-role stealth fighter and provides fifth-generation stealth, lethality and interoperability. A "tremendous leap" in aerospace engineering, design and technology, the aircraft collects and delivers more real-time information to the pilot than any other fighter aircraft ever created.

With the average age of America’s current fighter fleet being measured in decades, not years, fifth-generation aircraft like the F-35A are critical for the nation’s defense. It has also been a good fit in northern Utah.

Hill AFB was chosen to be the home of the Air Force’s first F-35A units because of the Total Force partnership of the 388th and 419th FWs, its proximity to the Utah Test and Training Range, the Ogden Air Logistics Complex and the base’s weather, zoning and air space.

The operational F-35A mission at Hill AFB added more than 400 personnel and generated an estimated $47 million to the local economy annually.