Hill Air Force Base Begins Process of Shipping F-16s to Other Bases

HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- The beginning of the end for Hill Air Force Base's F-16 fleet has formally started.

In order to supplement fighter pilot training, the Air Force says F-16s from Hill will be temporarily moved to up to two of the force's existing F-16 training locations, which include Luke AFB, Arizona; Holloman AFB, New Mexico; Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland's Kelly Field Annex, Texas; and Tucson Air National Guard Base, Arizona.

Air Force officials are conducting site surveys at the four locations and gathering information on operational requirements, capacity, environmental considerations and costs.

The Air Force has not yet released a timeline for when the jets will leave Hill. The initial move is a short-term remedy for the force's ongoing fighter pilot shortage. When permanent basing decisions are made, the planes could eventually be scattered across the United States.

According to the Secretary of the Air Force's Public Affairs office, all installations in the continental U.S. with an existing fighter mission and a runway longer than 8,000 feet are potential candidates for the F-16s.

The Air Force plans to develop a list of potential candidate bases later this year. An environmental impact analysis will be performed before final decisions are made.

Last week, the Air Force also announced that eight -- and possibly 16 -- of Hill's F-16 Fighting Falcons will be permanently relocated to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada as that base aims to build up a new close air support operation and form a new tactical air support squadron.

The moves are the beginning a two-year divestment of Hill's F-16 fleet, coinciding with the arrival of the F-35.

By the end of 2018, 45 F-16s are scheduled to leave Hill and be relocated at other installations across the Air Force. There won't be any manpower losses associated with the transition because existing F-16 pilots and maintainers are moving over to the base's F-35 mission.

By 2019 Hill will have a fleet of 78 F-35 Lightning IIs, flown by the 388th and 419th fighter wings. Earlier this month, Air Combat Command leader Gen. Hawk Carlisle announced 12 of Hill's fleet of 15 F-35s are combat ready.

The F-16 has been a fixture in Northern Utah since the late 1970s.

On Jan. 6, 1979, the 388th received its first F-16A and became the first fully operational F-16 Fighter Wing in the Air Force. In March 1981, the wing deployed overseas for the first time on a mission to Norway. In 1984, the 419th received its first jet, becoming the Air Force's first F-16 reserve wing.

The jet has supported Operation Desert Storm, gone to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and performed several other missions during the last four decades.

"I know for many the F-16 has been synonymous with Hill Air Force Base since the late '70s," said Col. David B. Lyons, commander of the 388th and a former F-16 pilot and squadron commander at Hill, in a statement released by the base's public affairs office. "It has been a great platform, but this transition is exciting because it brings us another step closer to standing up three full F-35 squadrons."

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