Editor’s note: This feature is part of a Hill Air Force Base 80th anniversary series. These articles feature the base’s historical innovations and achievements, and highlight mission platforms that have been operated and supported throughout the decades.
HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Development of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, a single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft, originated in the early 1980s when the U.S. Air Force identified a requirement for an Advanced Tactical Fighter to replace the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. Designers aimed to take advantage of new technologies, which included composite materials, lightweight alloys, advanced flight control systems, more powerful propulsion systems, and stealth capabilities.
After demonstration and validation competition between Lockheed and Northrop with their YF-22 and YF-23 demonstrator prototypes in the late 1980s, Secretary of the Air Force Donald Rice announced the Lockheed design as the winner on April 23, 1991, and the ATF program advanced to full-scale development. On April 9, 1997, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics unveiled the first Engineering and Manufacturing Development production aircraft, tail number 4001, at its Marietta, Georgia, assembly facility. The aircraft first flew on September 7, 1997. A little over five years later, in January 2003, Lockheed delivered the first production F-22 for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation.
That backstory is all fine and dandy, but what does it have to do with Hill ABF, you might ask. Well, here is where the history of the F-22 and Hill AFB intersect. On October 15, 2005, approximately 150 Airmen from the 1st Fighter Wing’s 27th Fighter Squadron arrived at Hill AFB from Langley AFB, Virginia. They brought with them the Air Force’s newest fighter, the F-22A Raptor. Over the next two weeks, the Airmen operated the new stealth fighter from Hill AFB’s airfield while completing some of the final steps necessary for the aircraft to achieve initial operational capability. Using the Utah Test and Training Range, the 2,675-square-mile and largest block of over-land airspace in the contiguous United States, the 27th Fighter Squadron demonstrated the F-22’s capability to effectively deploy the Joint Direct Attack Munition. This contributed to the aircraft reaching IOC, on time and according to schedule, as planned, in December 2005.
It came as no surprise when Air Force Materiel Command assigned the Ogden Air Logistics Center as the depot source of repair for the F-22 Raptor. By the early 2000s, the Ogden ALC had over three decades of experience supporting the U.S. Air Force’s premier jet fighter systems. Additionally, the low observable composites work that began on Hill AFB at the beginning of the decade for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber made it a natural choice for work on fifth generation stealth fighters such as the F-22. In competing for the workload, the primary question was more about how much of the work would be completed by private industry versus at the Ogden ALC. Ultimately, AFMC chose to have the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Corporation, conduct some F-22 maintenance at its Palmdale, California, facility while the Ogden ALC would also support the weapon system at Hill AFB.
On March 31, 2006, the first F-22 scheduled for modification by the Ogden ALC’s 309th Maintenance Wing arrived at Hill AFB. The following week, on April 3, the wing’s maintenance group inducted the aircraft into its modification line, formally marking the beginning of F-22 depot-level maintenance on Hill AFB. The first modification project for the F-22, with 18 aircraft scheduled between that April and the following February at a 35 day workflow for each, included the enhancement of the night air-to-air refueling design for increased night vision for the boom operator and better receptacle location while performing in-flight refueling.
The U.S. Air Force announced in May 2013 its decision to consolidate depot maintenance of the F-22 at Hill AFB. This consolidation aimed to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the maintenance and modification processes. The decision was made following a comprehensive business analysis led by the F-22 System Program Office. Following the decision, the F-22 System Program Office, Ogden ALC, and Lockheed Martin Corporation jointly implemented a 21-month incremental transitioning plan. This included the modification of existing base facilities, movement of specific support equipment, and the hiring of additional personnel at the Ogden ALC.