OGDEN, UTAH — As northern Utah’s Hill Air Force Base readies for the arrival of a new fleet of fighter jets, the base is preparing to phase out its mainstay aircraft.
Hill, located 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, is set to receive the first of three squadrons of F-35s next year for a projected 72 jets.
Once they start to arrive, the squadrons currently flying F-16s will transition to the new model, the Standard-Examiner reports.
Base spokesman George Jozens said the base is preparing for the new aircraft by building a $13.5 million hangar to house the jets. There will also be a handful of other construction projects to prepare for the arrival, he said.
It will also require some equipment upgrades and new training for operations and maintenance personnel, he said.
The Air Force in December selected Hill to serve as an operational base for the new F-35.
The F-35s will replace the F-16 with greater speed and combat range and lower maintenance costs due to a computerized self-test system, according to the Air Force.
For a period of time, both the new jets and the base’s 48 F-16s will be in operation.
Jozens said the final phase-out of the F-16 will depend on the new arrival and budget concerns.
The first F-16 arrived at Hill in January 1979, according to the Air Force.
For more than 30 years, the base had 72 F-16s spread among three squadrons until an Air Force restructuring in 2010, when one squadron was deactivated and Hill lost 24 jets.
Jozens said many of the base’s remaining F-16s will be reassigned to other locations, but that has not been determined yet.
He said officials will look at how many flight hours the aircraft have and their overall condition compared with the rest of the fleet to determine where they end up.