HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Before the F-35 Lightning II, reservists here flew various airframes to include trainers, heavies, and fighters. Most beloved among those planes were the F-105 Thunderchief and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The 419th Fighter Wing, known then as the 508th Tactical Fighter Group, flew the F-105, nicknamed “Thud,” from 1972 1983 – the very last United States Air Force unit to fly the jet.
The unit then made a critical transition from F-105 to F-16, dubbed the “Viper.” Pilots and maintainers assigned here at that time say the transition was challenging due to the “quantum leap in aircraft technology.” But reservists were up for the challenge, having made nearly 10 transitions since 1955.
An F-105 and F-16 from the wing’s history are on permanent display on the north end of Parking Lot 1 at Hill AFB. The F-105 is painted and marked as it appeared in 1981 when it first served with the wing’s 466th Tactical Fighter Squadron. The F-16 is painted and marked as it appeared when assigned to the 466th in 1994 – the same jet that flew during the Air Force’s worldwide fighter gunnery meet known as Gunsmoke in 1985, when the 419th placed first in the competition.
Beginning in 2015, the wing transitioned to the Air Force’s newest fighter jet, the F-35A. The wing flies and maintains the F-35 in a Total Force partnership with the active duty 388th FW. By the end of 2019, Hill AFB will be home to 78 F-35 aircraft.