March 1, 2007 (by A1C Stefanie Torres) - More than 400 service and community members had a chance to step into the future of Hill AFB during an F-35 Lightning II briefing and cockpit demonstration by Lockheed Martin on Feb. 21-23.
The 388th Fighter Wing hosted the demonstration to give Team Hill a peak at future Air Force capabilities and to gain support for the F-35 program. The 388 FW is being considered as one of the first operational wings for the F-35, pending an environmental analysis.
"A broad audience should learn about this stealthy, multi-role fighter that will bring the Air Force overwhelming air power for decades to come," said Col. Robert Beletic, commander of the 388 FW. "The F-35 and F-22 are the only fifth-generation fighters in the world."
Guests for the demonstration included members of the 526th ICBM Wing, 84th Combat Sustainment Wing, 309th Maintenance Wing, 508th Aircraft Sustainment Wing, 419th Fighter Wing, 75th Air Base Wing, Ogden Air Logistics Center, and community and political leaders.
During the presentation, guests learned the advanced combat capabilities of the Air Force's newest fighter. "Team Hill has a proud legacy of providing relevant, versatile and lethal air power, and we are proud to be considered for the F-35," said Colonel Beletic.
"The great combat capabilities of this next-generation fighter will allow us to penetrate the most advanced air defenses currently being designed and allow us to successfully target high value and mobile targets." Airmen stepping into the cockpit of the F-35 were amazed by its technological advances.
"I was impressed by the navigation and computer systems on the F-35," said Senior Airman Andrew Hanson, Component Maintenance Squadron egress journeyman. "The colored touch screen technology was mind-boggling. The differences between the F-16 and F-35 are like night and day."
Lockheed Martin has engineered three versions of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force's F-35A will have a conventional take-off and landing and cost an average of $46.4 million per aircraft. "But this price is lower than that of our legacy fighter, the F-16," said Mr. Billy Diehl, a Lockheed Martin spokesman who briefed Hill members on the aircraft's war-fighting technology.
The F-35A's first flight took place Dec. 15. With 40 thousand pounds of thrust, the F-35 is the most powerful single-engine fighter in the world. Even with that amount of power, this aircraft manages to stay practically invisible.
"The Army can call in air strikes and hit a target before the F-35 is even seen or heard," said Mr. Diehl. Six cameras mounted throughout the cockpit allow pilots to virtually see through the aircraft. The predominant feature of the cockpit is an 8 x 20 inch screen that is touch or voice-activated. "This fighter no doubt establishes air dominance with its interior and exterior features," said Mr. Diehl.
The F-35 can hold 11 internal weapons and has three times the fuel capacity of an F-16. With a 40-year survivability rate, the F-35 is scheduled to replace the F-16s and A-10s in the Air Force inventory.
The next generation fighter is expected to make its way to the 388 FW in 2013. "Our Air Force needs this aircraft to ensure air dominance in the future," said Colonel Beletic. "The 388 FW provides the world's best close air support, the world's best air control and the world's best test and training range. The F-35 will greatly advance the close air support mission while our air control and range capabilities will compliment the new aircraft."