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Team Hill tests near-instant launch capabilities of fighter wings

A photo of an F-35A Lightning II

An F-35A Lightning II from the 388th Fighter Wing taxis at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (U.S. Air Force file photo by Todd Cromar)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Last week, Team Hill carried out a short-notice exercise, launching F-35A Lightning IIs to intercept two civilian “red air” aircraft over the Utah Test and Training Range.

The exercise tested the ability of the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings o perform nearly instantaneous launches from Hill Air Force Base in case of emergencies.

Carried out at the 75th Air Base Wing’s newly renovated alert facility here, the exercise included participants from the 388th Fighter Wing, 419th Fighter Wing, 75th Air Base Wing and Utah’s Civil Air Patrol.

“Our team of Airmen from the 388th, 419th and 75th ABW, have been working extremely hard toward establishing this capability and supporting this mission if we are called upon,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander. “Team Hill has done a great job of providing the facility and coordinating the command and control and the procedures for expedited alert launches.”

This is the first time Hill’s fighter wings have completed an exercise like this since transitioning to the F-35A, and the first exercise after the 75th ABW’s flight line alert facility was renovated and updated for the F-35 mission.

“While operating out of the alert facility, the aircraft tasked for the mission are able to remain separate from the rest of the flight line, de-conflicted from the rest of the day-to-day mission,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Edwards, 388th Fighter Wing Plans and Programs director. “When operating out of the alert area, everyone is focused on this sole mission as it becomes the top priority for the airfield.”

Utah’s Civil Air Patrol was “absolutely critical to this mission,” Edwards said, because CAP operates the type of aircraft that are most often encountered on ntercept missions.  

“Because of CAP’s participation, we were able to perform training that we don’t normally get,” said Edwards. “We practiced low and slow visual identifications and comm-out/comm-in maneuvers that will aid in the defense of the local area if that is ever required. It’s the most realistic type of training we can get for this mission.”

“I can’t say enough about the preparation and training that led to this successful event,” said Col. Jenise Carroll, 75th Air Base Wing commander. “Team Hill Airmen produce results, whether it was the 388th FW maintainers, or 75th ABW civil engineering, communications, or security forces folks. I saw a ‘can do’ attitude that really separates us from any of our competitors around the world. Our people are our greatest weapons system and they proved that once again with this exercise.”

The active duty 388th and Reserve 419th FWs operate and maintain F-35s in a Total Force partnership at Hill. They are the first combat capable F-35 wings in the Air Force.

“This is one of those missions you never want to be called for, but if it ever happens, it’s good to know we are ready,” Edwards said.