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Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, Air Force Sustainment Center commander, speaks during the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter commemoration ceremony Sept. 20, 2013, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Hill, Lockheed Martin, Utah elected officials and community members gathered for a ceremony to commemorate the beginning of F-35 depot maintenance at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex. The F-35A is a multi-variant, multi-role, fifth generation fighter, and will undergo organic depot modification work at Hill AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd/Released)
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Hill Air Force Base welcomes F-35 workload

Posted 9/27/2013   Updated 9/27/2013 Email story   Print story


by Mary Lou Gorny
Hilltop Times Editor

9/27/2013 - HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- "Can you feel hearts are beating pretty fast and pretty hard?" asked Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, Air Force Sustainment Center commander, to a hangar full of people awaiting the sight of the first F-35 Lightning II. "This truly is the start of something good," he said.

Maj. Gen. H. Brent Baker Sr., Ogden Air Logistics Complex commander, directed the doors to open and the 21-foot jet was greeted with applause as the mostly seated crowd jumped to its feet at the sight of the sleek, gray fighter.

The unveiling was part of a celebration held to mark the beginning of the sustainment and maintenance of the F-35 at the OO-ALC. Representatives from the Pentagon, AFSC, Lockheed Martin, the OO-ALC and community were present to laud the continuation of a long relationship
with the depot for maintenance and sustainment of aircraft.

The multirole joint strike fighter is viewed as the backbone of the future fighter fleet for the Air Force, and other military services, including the Navy and Marines.

Navy Rear Adm. Randolph Mahr, F-35 Lightning II Program general manager, said that the aircraft is the most capable the world has ever seen, "But it is still just an airplane and like any other piece of mechanical equipment it occasionally needs maintenance and to be overhauled."

In that role, Hill AFB has aligned itself with the Air Force to become one of six military depots to maintain and sustain the jetfighter.

Lorraine Martin, executive vice president of general management for Lockheed Martin, developer of the aircraft, reviewed the rich heritage that the industrial partner has had over the years with Hill AFB, including that of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, C-130 Hercules and F-22 Raptor.

She noted, "The first F-16 arrived here at Hill Air Force Base for depot maintenance in June 29, 1979. Since then, you have continued to support (it) with dedication and a passion for excellence to ensure its success throughout its entire life cycle."

Martin lauded the partnership with the depot and the Air Force and said that the partnership promises to be a fantastic opportunity for members of the team at Hill AFB and other future highly-skilled members.

Two of Utah's congressional representatives addressed the crowd and greeted the additional workload and the state's commitment to patriotism, while also noting the need to make wise sustainment decisions.

"We need to be vigilant in not only how we acquire a more capable and affordable weapon system and get it to the warfighter, but also in how we sustain that weapons system for years to come," said Sen. Orrin Hatch.

"To achieve the long sustainability of this great platform we need to combine the talents and skills of this great platform and the talents of skills of our men and women in uniform, our civilian workforce and our industry partners," Hatch said.

"We need our uniformed (service people), our civilians, our industry partners and our international partners to provide the best value to the joint strike force program office. Eight countries are participating in this airplane," Hatch said.

He praised the intellectual prowess that brought the weapons system advances.

"You are working to preserve freedom, not just here, but all over the world," he said to all those assembled.

Sen. Mike Lee reviewed the commitment of the men and women in uniform and their commitment to serve.

"That's what this aircraft is for -- to protect the dignity of human beings which is the principal object of our republic," Lee said.

The congressman praised the country's technological weapons systems and the commitment that was necessary to developing the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, and compared it to an investment in freedom.

After the ceremony, as members posed in front of the fighter jet for photos, Baker reflected, "I would say that this is a wonderful day. Everyone's excited. I think everyone is just excited to finally see the fifth-generation fighter here at Hill."

Mahr emphasized, "This is a great day -- having the F-35 here at Hill (with) its long legacy of maintenance and sustainment. Again it's not about the hardware, it's not about the airplane -- it's about the people. Team Hill has the best people to work on the F-35."

He added, "We're very proud of everything we've accomplished to get to work with Team Hill. Looking forward, the ability to deliver the F-35 with the quality of work that Team Hill is known for (during) the next 30 or 40 years for the Air Force, that's going to be key, and that's why we are here today."

Earlier in Mahr's remarks he indicated that he expected to see hundreds of F-35s based at Air Force sites by the time the Air Force celebrates its 70th birthday. The Air Force just recently celebrated its 66th year.

"This is what sets us apart from everybody else. When we combine state-of-the-art facilities and the capability of Hill's highly trained motivated and professional workforce, we know the F-35 has found the right home for sustainment," Litchfield said.

"I don't look on today as a culminating event but as a starting point for a pathway that will endure, grow and expand as we deliver on our pledge of delivering quality jets on time, early and with high quality because we are committed to our promise," he said. "Just think, children not even born yet will stand here working on what this capability will provide for our future. This is exciting."

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