Editor’s note: This feature is part of a Hill Air Force Base 80th anniversary series. These articles will feature the base’s historical innovations and achievements, and will highlight mission platforms that have been operated and supported throughout the decades.
HILL AIR FORCE BASE — As Hill AFB entered the 21st century, the installation employed 19,315 personnel — consisting of 4,975 military and 14,340 civilians. The Ogden Air Logistics Center headquartered 10 directorates, having not yet realigned to a wing structure, and the 75th Air Base Wing was still at that time assigned to the center. Fears of the “Y2K bug,” an anticipated widespread computer programming issue expected to cause havoc on information systems as the year changed from 1999 to 2000, were allayed as organizations across the base experienced no major hiccups in operations due to their preparations.
On the eve of the turning of the century, the Ogden ALC received a new assignment. Seemingly appropriate for taking the organization’s workload into the future, AFMC assigned the Ogden ALC responsibility for work on low-observable composite material. During the late 1990s, the Ogden ALC partnered with the Air Force Research Laboratory and Northrop Grumman Corporation to bring composites manufacturing and repair operations for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber to Hill AFB. AFRL’s Advanced Composites Office and equipment from Northrop’s Pico Rivera plant in California transferred to Hill AFB. Working with the B-2 System Program Office and the B-2 logistics system support manager at the Oklahoma City ALC, the Ogden ALC expanded its ability to support the B-2 and began laser testing and repairing flight control surfaces for the aircraft.
To support this new workload, the Ogden ALC invested several million dollars into new infrastructure. This included an upgrade to a radar test chamber for low-observable measurements, as well as purchase and installation of a large autoclave (15 x 45 feet) for low observable material manufacturing, a shearography chamber, wheat starch stripping booth, and ultrasonic and laser cutters.
On Jan. 18, 2000, officials from the Ogden ALC, B-2 System Program Office, and Northrop Grumman gathered at Hill AFB to mark the opening of the new facility for low observable composites repair. During the occasion, Major General Richard Roellig, then commander of the Ogden ALC, called the new facility a “crown jewel for the Air Force” and remarked that the new workload would provide a growth area for the future. Scott Seymor, then Northrop Grumman’s sector vice-president for Air Combat Systems, called the new facility a win-win, showcasing the advantages of the Department of Defense’s ability to partner with private industry.
The creation of the facility paved the way at Hill AFB for work on other systems employing low-observable composite technology, namely the F-117 Nighthawk, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Lightning II. It also provided a repair capability for low-observable composites that was not possible at any other installation or facility at the time.