HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Utahns can expect more F-35 training at night through mid-April, but pilots said they’ll be less likely to hear any more sonic booms like the one that startled residents on the Wasatch Front last week.
Both the 388th Fighter Wing and the 419th Reserve Wing will be out over the Utah Test and Training Range in Tooele County.
While flying in the dark can be more difficult, it’s the time when most of their combat operations happen.
The F-35 is loud and it is fast. The high-tech jet can hit well over 300 mph during takeoff alone.
“I love it. I love flying fighters and I have really enjoyed flying the F-35,” said pilot Johnathan Hassell, who is one of the dozens of pilots stationed at Hill Air Force Base.
He scheduled many of the training missions Utahns will be hearing in the coming weeks around Davis County.
The goal is to be ready to handle combat at night.
“It is a huge factor in what we do. It is also much more difficult at that time,” Hassell said.
The 388th and 419th are planning more nighttime training through April 9th. Hear why this is so important for those F-35 pilots, and why you (probably) won’t hear those sonic booms like we heard last week again, on @KSL5TV at 6pm. pic.twitter.com/HDo0VnwNjV
— Mike Anderson (@mikeandersonKSL) February 3, 2021
They have to be ready to fly in any condition, but most of their operations happen at night and they use thermal or night-vision imaging to see what they’re doing.
A lot of what they do happens beyond the speed of sound.
“We actually fly supersonic quite a bit as part of our normal training, and I know last week there was a sonic boom heard over Salt Lake City. And, to be honest, that was a bit of a surprise for us as well,” Hassell said.
It was a surprise because the test and training range on the west end of Tooele County is usually far enough away to avoid catching residents off guard along the Wasatch Front.
“I’ve been flying fighters for over a decade and I have never heard of a sonic boom being felt or heard, I think it was 50 or 60 miles away from our training area,” Hassell added.
Last week’s inversion was blamed for the unusual distance the boom was heard.
Hassell said for them, going supersonic happens with the simple push of the throttle. “And then it’s almost imperceptible in the cockpit itself,” he said.
While those closest to the base will hear them, he said it’s unlikely that the Wasatch Front will hear those booms again.
“I can’t guarantee that that won’t happen again,” Hassell said. “But my understanding was that was a rather unusual occurrence as far as the weather patterns of that night.”
Most of the training will wrap up between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. It will end on April 9.
Over the past couple of years, all three HAFB fighter units have supported combat operations in the Middle East.
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