Hill asking for $38M more for F-35 work

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE — If Congress approves the Air Force’s proposed 2016 budget, Hill Air Force Base will receive more than $38 million for additional construction work, mainly associated with the F-35, next year.

The proposed budget, which needs congressional approval before any money is allocated or any projects begin, includes three major construction efforts that would take place at Hill, two of which are necessary to directly accommodate the F-35.

As home to the Air Force’s first operational F-35 wing, Hill is scheduled to receive 72 jets, which will be divided among three fighter squadrons and flown and maintained by members of the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings. The first jet will arrive late this year, and the rest of the fleet will continue to come to Hill on a staggered basis, spread out through 2019.

The Air Force’s fiscal year 2016 budget sets aside $5.9 million for an addition to a base building that must be expanded in order to house two F-35A flight simulators. In addition to normal building construction items like concrete, steel and utility work, the project also includes a special fire detection and suppression system and unique security enhancements, according to Department of the Air Force military construction program budget documents.

The project is the second portion of a two-phase effort to provide Hill’s 388th Fighter Wing with a total of six F-35A simulator training rooms. 

The first two simulator rooms are already built, currently used for F-16 training, and money provided in the fiscal year 2013 Air Force budget will be used to build the middle two simulator bays, which must be ready for training in November 2016.

The 2016 money provides for the final two simulator bays that must be available for training by June 2018. According to budget documents,if the proposed budget were denied, halting the simulator work, F-35 aircrews at Hill would have to travel to other sites to perform simulation training.

The 2016 budget also calls for $21 million for new F-35 hangar facilities. Existing maintenance hangars at Hill don’t provide enough space for the unique maintenance requirements of the F-35A, so the hangars on base will receive major upgrades that will provide space maintenance personnel to conduct engine removal and replacement, and other maintenance tasks.

The additions would extend the hangars by about 30 feet and include new doors, an upgrade to existing utility systems, roof modifications, three bridge cranes and new power panels.

The Air Force also plans for $11.5 million to go to nine munitions storage igloos on base that support current real-world deployments and training exercises.

Nearly 30 projects totaling more than $100 million will be completed by 2019 as part of Hill’s F-35 program.