BY TOM BUSSELBERG
HILL AFB – Stationing 72 F-35 Lightning IIs stealth fighters at Hill AFB is being lauded as a strong win for Davis County and the region.
“This is something I think the whole community has worked hard to make the Air Force aware of,” that the mission would be welcomed here, said County Commissioner Louenda Downs.
“There was a lot of public involvement” in support of such a decision, she said, underlining the constant positive support from Davis County and beyond.
That differs starkly from a lukewarm reception from Burlington, Vt., which was approved to house 18 F-35 fighters.
According to press reports, the go-ahead came in spite of concerns over noisy planes and potential risk to the community.
There reportedly was a debate that at times was heated and lengthy among Vermont officials.
The tone in Utah appears to be totally different.
The state’s two senators and Rep. Rob Bishop, in whose district the base is located, applauded the move.
“The Air Force’s final record of decision is a clear voice of confidence in the future of Hill AFB,” said Bishop. He is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“The F-35 has been referred to as the ‘backbone of U.S. air combat for the next generation’ and today’s announcement confirms that Hill AFB, the Ogden Air Logistics Center, and the Utah Test and Training Range remain the preeminent training grounds for air combat technologies,” he said.
The support systems at the base, including active duty and reserve military personnel plus civilian defense workers, were also praised.
Sen. Mike Lee, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the Air Force’s choice logical, citing the “incredible support the Air Force enjoys from the northern Utah community. The Air Force has a unique relationship with the state of Utah that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the country.”
Downs briefly recounted the process that led to Hill’s being chosen.
“You think about the scope of this,” she said. “The Air Force started with 205 possible locations, used criteria to narrow that down to six, then to three: Shaw, Mountain Home and Hill. To have Hill chosen is a great win.”
The decision came after four years of study, a Hill AFB press release said. The study included an environmental impact statement that examined impacts on such factors as air quality, noise, land use and socioeconomics.
The base already houses the F-35 depot, which provides fleet maintenance support, considered important to the long term sustainment and readiness of the F-35A fleet, the release said.
“Hill AFB is ideally suited to assure a successful path to Initial Operational Capability,” said Timothy Bridges, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations. That includes proximity of the Utah Test & Training Range, he said.
“The F-35 is critical to ensuring our dominance over the battlefield in today and tomorrow’s advanced threat environment,” said Col. Lance Landrum, 388th Fighter Wing commander.
“Hill is the perfect place for this weapons system given the nearby training range, our existing infrastructure, and continued support from the local community. We look forward to paving the way for its arrival,” he said.