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Patrolling the skies outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, a pair of F-16 Vipers, flown by 1Lt Brian “Deuce” Wilder (bottom) and Lt Col Michael “Skeeter” Rothstein (top) have played a vital role in the nation’s Homeland Defense mission by providing nonstop aerial deterance over the U.S. capitol in Washington, DC, as well as securing the skies around Salt Lake city during the 2002 Olympic Games. The F-16’s are based out of the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah.

An update on our local military location


Not everyone gets a regular roaring reminder of the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. like we do here in Northern Utah. It seems to be a common perspective among the residents who live within earshot of the planes coming or going from Hill Air Force Base. The roaring of the jets is appreciated instead of being considered a nuisance. “That’s the sound of freedom,” have come out of many residents’ mouths.

388th Fighter Wing pilot, Lt. Col. Jared Santos, became the first Air Force pilot to reach 1,000 flying hours in the F-35A Lightning II after a training sortie at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 22, 2020. Santos, a former F-15 and F-18 pilot, began flying the F-35 at Eglin AFB eight years ago, and has been assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing for two years. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

We’ve noticed the construction happening at the different gates along the freeway, which got us curious about what they’re building. As I searched for answers, I came across some other interesting information that is worth sharing.


The biannual air show was canceled last year, but it will be back in 2022 and is scheduled for June 25th and 26th. If you’ve never attended, you might need to put it on your bucket list. Beware, next year it’s probably going to have a bigger turnout than ever before. I’ve attended a few, and it was amazing to watch the Thunderbirds perform their aerial maneuvers. The Standard Examiner reported, “According to legislative documents from the 2019 general session, the show provides an approximately $50 million economic impact to Northern Utah.’’ Visitors come from out of state, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, and visit other businesses.


Hill Air Force Base estimates their total annual economic impact on the area is over $4.5 billion. It ranks sixth as one of Utah’s major employers, but that only accounts for civilian employment. In 2020, there were 22,566 total personnel working within the base, 5,843 military personnel, 14,312 civilians, and 2,411 contractors. Civilian personnel are federal employees that are not active-duty military personnel. Contractors are different from civilians because they aren’t government employees. They work for a company that operates at HAFB. Chances are, you know someone who works for Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed Martin, or BAE Systems at HAFB. This leads us to the construction we can see happening at HAFB.

Staff Sgt. Shaka Battle and Senior Airman Irvin Padilla, both 388th Fighter Wing, participate in Combat Hammer exercise, August 12, 2020, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The 34th Fighter Squadron, along with Reservists from the 419th Fighter Wing, recently completed the Weapons System Evaluation Program West (WESP), employing a variety of munitions with the F-35A Lighting II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)


The buildings going up just outside the West Gate, like Tru by Hilton Hotel, are a part of the Enhanced Use Lease program that allows the Air Force to lease underutilized land to a private entity. The Air Force uses the money from the rental income to fund additional buildings in the area. In total, there are plans for eight million square feet to be developed over the next 25 years as part of the EUL. This includes office space, retail outlets, restaurants, and hotels.

You can see the Roy Innovation Center going in by the Aerospace Museum. This is going to be a 231,000-square-foot Northrop Grumman facility. Kendahl Johnson is from the 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs. In an article he wrote on the HAFB website, it says, “[This] will serve as future headquarters for the aerospace company’s work supporting the Department of Defense Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program. Several additional buildings are in the planning stages, in what will eventually include five new buildings at Hill and more than a million square feet of office and lab facilities. There will be office and administration space for 1,600-plus employees in each building. Brent Christensen is the EUL Chief, and he said, “We are making tremendous progress. The recession set us back some, but we are making great strides forward. By all counts, the Enhanced Use Lease program has been a major success.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander and pilot, mentally prepares for flight prior to stepping to the jet for a demonstration rehearsal at Hill Air Force Utah, April 28, 2021. Maj. Wolfe practices her routine on a weekly basis in order to maintain her readiness and currency to prepare for upcoming air shows. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Kip Sumner)


With growth comes more traffic, and here are the plans to mitigate it: There will be a new interchange and base entry point between the Roy gate at 5600 and the west gate, which is estimated to be completed in 2024. To accommodate the increased traffic in the area, the Roy and I-15 interchange at 5600 South will be widened, with a turn lane and acceleration lane added. A traffic light has also been added to the intersection to improve access to the museum and Northrop development.


As we’re talking about construction, let’s back up to the groundbreaking for construction of Hill Air Force Base, which occurred in 1940. The area was selected to build a permanent air depot for a few reasons. It has good year-round flying weather, and the climate is excellent for aircraft maintenance and material storage. It is also a strategic location inland for protection from possible enemy coastal attacks. The base was named after Major Ployer P. Hill, an early Air Corps Materiel Division pilot who lost his life in 1935 at Wright Field, Ohio, while testing the Boeing Model 299 aircraft. It was a pre-production demonstrator of the B-17 bomber, a bomber used primarily against German targets in World War II.

I’ve become friends with a mom who has a daughter the same age as mine. She attends discovery time at our local library, and I found out her husband will be deployed until Christmas. My heart is full of gratitude for all those who serve, along with the families who make sacrifices as well. Thank you for playing a part in preserving the freedoms we enjoy as a country.

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