Budget may include major construction at Hill, F-35 purchase at Hill, delay of F-35 purchases

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force’s proposed 2017 budget includes a delay in F-35 purchases, new life for the A-10 and more than $44 million worth of construction projects at Hill Air Force Base.

The agency’s total budget exceeds $120 billion while working within the confines of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, a modest and temporary revision of sequestration spending caps that went into effect in 2013.

In a news release announcing the budget request, Air Force budget director Maj. Gen. Jim Martin said the BBA provides some temporary relief from sequestration-level spending caps, which are scheduled to go back into effect during the next budget cycle. But Martin said budgetary limits are still present, and they’re manifested in the 2017 budget through a delay in the F-35 procurement schedule.

“Unfortunately, in this budget, we had to sacrifice modernization for current readiness, and as a result, were forced to delay five F-35s,” Martin said in the release.

The delay won’t affect the already-purchased F-35s scheduled to operate at Hill. The first two jets arrived on base in September, and more will continue to fly in at a rate of one or two per month until 2019, when the base receives its full allotment of 72 jets. 

Conversely, the budget calls to keep the force’s current fleet of A-10 Thunderbolts flying until 2022, an about-face from previous Air Force plans.

The Air Force has repeatedly tried to retire the plane over the past few years, only to be blocked by Congress at every turn. The plane has seen a resurgence in combat of late, participating heavily in air strikes in Iraq and Syria against the ISIS terrorist group. Hill provides maintenance for both the A-10 and the F-35.

The budget also provides $44.5 million dollars for five construction projects at Hill. The 649th Munitions Squadron will get two maintenance facilities, valued at a combined $20.7 million, and a set of storage units capable of holding a 150,000 pound cache of munitions. The storage units come with a $6.6 million price tag. 

The unit stores and prepares weapons packages that are available for quick overseas deployment during potential conflicts.

A $10.1 million F-35 weapons facility and a $7.1 million aircraft antenna maintenance shop at Hill are also included in the budget, along with a 1.6 percent pay raise for all active-duty and civilian Air Force personnel.

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