The US Air Force’s (USAF) Hill Air Force Base (AFB) in Utah has received its final F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft.

Receipt of the aircraft by the fighter wings marks the completion of the procurement programme for 78 F-35As at Hill AFB.

The active duty 388th and Air Force Reserve 419th fighter wings at Hill AFB operate the aircraft.

Hill AFB received the first operational F-35 jets in September 2015. The fighter wings have performed more than 17,500 sorties with the F-35s.

388th Fighter Wing commander colonel Steven Behmer said: “This is a great milestone. It marks the end of the beginning for us. Since receiving our first aircraft, our airmen, alongside the 419th Fighter Wing, have remained focused on expanding the combat capabilities of the F-35A.”

Of the 78 F-35A aircraft, 72 are assigned equally among the 4th, 421st and 34th fighter squadrons of the 388th fighter wing. The remaining six are used for backup.

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The squadrons are supported by the 419th FW’s 466th fighter squadron. The two wings support the US combat operations in the Middle East.

419th FW commander colonel Regina Sabric said: “Receiving the final aircraft this month is a great way to close out 2019, while looking forward to another year full of new challenges, capabilities and firsts with the F-35.”

The F-35A is a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant of the F-35 combat aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin. The aircraft provides the USAF with fifth-generation stealth fighter capabilities.