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F-35A Lightning II fighter jets at Hill AFB
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Hill Air Force Base shows off full strength and combat readiness of F-35A jets

F-35A Lightning II fighter jets lined up for an exercise at Hill AFB Monday. Photo: R. Nial Bradshaw, U.S. Air Force

CLEARFIELD, Utah — Davis County residents, especially those closest to Hill Air Force Base, got a whole new look at the might and muscle of the U.S. Air Force, as row after row of F-35A fighter jets lined up in formation and took off Monday.

The 388th Fighter Wing’s F-35A Lightning IIs taxied and lined up, one after the other, then took off past the snow-capped mountains into a bright blue sky and beyond. Over just a short period of time, witnesses watched 52 jets soar into the air.

Vice Commander Colonel Michael Ebner says the exercise was not in response to any current events but had been planned for some time.

“Our full-war fighting capability consists of three parts: our personnel, our aircraft, and our support equipment. We have a full complement of trained operators and maintainers, we have a full complement of 78 aircraft, and all the mission support equipment that goes along with it,” Ebner said.

Ebner told reporters the 388th Fighter Wing’s mission is to rapidly deploy combat power anywhere in the world. He said it sends a message to the country that Hill and its 388th and 419th Fighter Wings are at full capability, ready to deploy when needed.

“This has taken years and years of training. It has taken thousands of people thousands of hours to get to where we are here at Hill Air Force Base. But it has been an effort by Americans all across the country, from our acquisition professionals, our training professionals, and the people you see here today,” Ebner said.

Just over four years ago, Hill AFB received its first F-35A. Now the base is home to 78 of the fighter jets.

Photo credit: Mary Richards)

The F35 Demo Team will continue to fly throughout the week around Northern Utah, though nothing quite as concentrated as Monday’s exercise.

“It becomes a concerted effort to be able to launch and have them all ready at this one particular time. It becomes a challenge to launch that many aircraft, that percentage of our fleet all at once,” he said.

The demo team will also strut its stuff at the Hill Air Force Base air show in the summer.