The 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base will re-activate the 34th Fighter Squadron on Friday in preparation to receive the first combat ready F-35s.
In 2010 Air Force officials disbanded the 34th fighter squadron as part of a restructuring plan to make the Air Force smaller. But as the 388th Fighter Wing prepares to receive the first combat ready F-35s in the Air Force, the historic unit is being brought back. Nathan Simmons is the public affairs officer for the 388th Fighter Wing.
“A lot of people were hopeful that that unit would come back and so, here we are, five years later and the 34th is going to be leading the Air Force with the F-35," he says. "So, it’s a very exciting time for everybody.”
The first F-35 will arrive at Hill Air Force Base in September. After that, they’ll receive one to two more each month until about 2019. But Simmons says there is still a lot to do before the end of 2016. That’s when the squadron is scheduled to be ready for combat operations.
“Really it’s about standing up the unit, getting the right trained guys in place, and getting the jets here first before we can look down the road,” he says.
Hill Air Force Base is also home to the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, which will provide maintenance for the country’s F-35s. That, and the base’s proximity to the Utah Test and Training Range were key factors in the decision to bring the F-35 here first.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an extremely advanced plane that will provide the Air Force, Navy, and Marines a plane flexible enough to handle a wide range of battlefield scenarios. But achieving that technological prowess has also come with added costs and setbacks. The Department of Defense has spent almost $400 billion dollars on the program so far.