HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Throughout 2018, the 419th Fighter Wing and active duty counterparts at Hill continued to advance the F-35 Lightning II program and set the playbook for all future F-35A operations.
In April, the 419th FW welcomed Col. Gina “Torch” Sabric, its first female commander and the Air Force Reserve’s first female F-35 pilot.
In May, the 419th and active duty 388th FW returned from a six-month Theater Security Package deployment to Kadena Air Base, Japan, marking the first operational F-35A deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Their mission was to maintain a combat-ready posture, deter threats, and assure U.S. allies. Personnel generated 1,052 sorties and forward-deployed to Misawa AB, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Kunsan AB, and Osan AB.
Additionally, reservists from the 419th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 419th Force Support Squadron, and 67th Aerial Port Squadron supported six-month deployments in seven countries across four continents.
In August, the 419th participated in Combat Hammer and Combat Archer as part of the Air Force’s annual Weapons System Evaluation Program, employing 30 bombs and 13 missiles at the Utah Test and Training Range. During that time, the 419th and 388th also became the first operational units to load and fire the F-35A cannon. Throughout the year, the wing continued to test new F-35A weapons, including the GBU-49 laser and GPS-guided bomb.
In September, the 419th FW earned an overall grade of “Effective” during a Unit Effectiveness Inspection. The wing also earned grades of “Highly Effective” in two categories: leading people and executing the mission.
In October, the 419th and 388th generated nearly 150 sorties during a two-week exercise to test and evaluate their ability to operate the F-35A in a deployed environment. In November, they also conducted the first-ever F-35 “elephant walk” and successfully launched 35 aircraft within 11 minutes during a combat power exercise designed to test their ability to quickly deploy aircraft en masse.
By December, the fighter wings at Hill AFB had generated their 10,000th sortie since receiving the Air Force’s force F-35A in September 2015. They also accepted their 50th jet, well on their way to reaching full capacity of 78 aircraft by the end of 2019.