This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Each day, the threats facing our nation evolve as quickly as they multiply. To meet the demands of modern warfare, we need a weapon system that adapts as quickly as our enemies one that can target and neutralize opposition with workmanlike efficiency and deadly force. With the arrival of the F-35 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah is now home to such a weapon. The deployment of this aircraft is a victory both for our state and nation.
The F-35 boasts capabilities that will redefine the terms of battle. As one of the strongest weapons in our military's arsenal, this plane pairs power and precision with unparalleled performance. Stealth technology renders the plane virtually invisible to enemy radars, allowing it to infiltrate hostile airspace untouched and unseen. Combined with an advanced radar system, this weapon has the ability to detect and shoot down enemies before they even know it's there. This aircraft possesses capability without precedent and technology without equal.
As a Utahn, I am proud that Hill Air Force Base will play a pivotal role in bringing this aircraft to full operability. The first two F-35s arrived at Hill just last month, with 70 more expected to arrive between now and 2019. The new F-35 squadron is expected to create hundreds of new positions as the base hires more personnel to provide maintenance, modification and repair for the fighter wing. Over the next five years, these new hires will join the robust labor force of Hill Air Force Base a cohort of 20,000 men and women who work every day to support the fighter and keep our nation strong.
As a former congressman and member of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, I can speak to the exceptionalism of the men and women at Hill. After visiting dozens of military bases across the country, I have never seen a workforce that compares in terms of competence and professionalism. Over many years, Hill's leaders have cultivated a culture of excellence.
In addition to a talented workforce, Hill's close proximity to the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) makes it a perfect home for the F-35. UTTR is an ideal training ground for F-35 pilots. Stretching over 12,500 square miles of airspace, this vast stretch of land offers pilots a perfect arena to hone their flying skills, test long-range weapons and push the plane to new limits.
By bolstering Utah's economy and strengthening our national defense, both our state and our nation have cause to celebrate the arrival of the F-35 at Hill Air Force Base. Of course, this triumph would not be possible without the hundreds of men and women who have worked tirelessly to make this project a reality. In managing this effort, the leadership of Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan was instrumental.
Equally indispensable were the contributions of Utah's own Sen. Orrin Hatch. As early as 2005, Hatch began meeting with senior defense officials to highlight the strengths of Hill Air Force Base. Over a decade, he met with multiple Air Force secretaries and chiefs of staff to relay a convincing argument that Hill should be chosen to receive the first operational squadron of F-35s. Thanks to his advocacy, the F-35 is the newest edition to Hill.
As Utahns, we should be proud that the Air Force has entrusted our state with stewardship of this groundbreaking new weapon system. I commend our leaders at the Department of Defense for installing the first F-35 squadron at Hill Air Force Base. Utah is stronger and our nation is safer because of this decision.
James Hansen represented Utah's 1st Congressional District from 1981 to 2003.