HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (ABC4 Utah) It’s the end of an era. The F-16s that called Hill Air Force Base home for nearly 40 years are leaving the state.
The Fighting Falcon F-16s, also known as Vipers, first came to Utah back in 1979. By next week, the last one will leave to make room for the bigger and better F-35s.
Like most pilots in Northern Utah, Capt. Tyler McBride began his career with the F-16, flying twice the speed of sound.
“It’s bittersweet but at the same time, you’ve got to keep moving forward because everyone else in the world is doing that so this is no exception,” Capt. McBride.
From Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world, the Fighting Falcon was a visible representation of Hill’s vital national defense.
“It’s a proud 38 years putting bombs on targets and doing the mission overseas,” 419th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Dave Smith said.
It was standing room only Friday as the 388th and 419th fighter wings bid farewell to the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
“I think a little part of us leaves with it. The community is going to see it leave. A little part of them is going to leave with it, especially people who’ve been with it for a long time,” 388th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Lee Kloos said.
Just like the Vipers, 78 F-35s will soon fly the skies of northern Utah as the US military transitions into the next generation of fighter planes. By 2019, Utah will have the largest F-35 operational wing in the country.
“It’s really cool just to have the opportunity to not only fly the most sophisticated jet ever built by man, to be part of the initial group that gets to stand up and and put a thumbprint on our new heritage,” Capt. McBride said.
Most of Hill’s F16s will be reassigned to a USAF base in New Mexico.