HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Guy Phillips watched his future land here recently in the form of an F-22A Raptor fighter jet.

As chief of Hill's 309th Maintenance Wing's F-22 aircraft maintenance implementation crew, Phillips' job will be to make improvements to a jet already considered 20 years ahead of the best fighter jets in any other country in the world.

"It is the future of Hill Air Force Base," said Col. Kyle Macdonald of the 309th Maintenance Wing.

This new breed of faster, more nimble jet fighter is expected to replace the F-15.

It's first of at least six F-22As expected to land at Hill over the next fiscal year as these highly touted new jets receive modifications at this base.

Hill officials who watched the jet land could not put exact numbers to just how many new jobs will be created, how many contracts Hill will get to modify the F-22As or how many millions of dollars it will all be worth to Utah.

"We're creating history as we go," Phillips said.

Maj. Evan Dertein flew the F-22A from its home at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. He has been in the Air Force 14 years and flew F-15s and F-16s over Iraq before the war started.

The new jet's stealth capability, maneuverability and technology don't compare to the dying breeds of jets that he has flown for more than 1,600 hours.

"It's been a dream come true," Dertein said about his 300 hours flying the new F-22As.

The jet he flew into Hill will receive modifications that include an upgrade to its night air-to-air refueling light.

Macdonald said 183 F-22As will receive modifications over time, all taking place at Hill. In a time when the government has been eyeing military bases for closure, Hill is expecting that in 2007 F-22As will be arriving at a rate of three or four aircraft a month to be modified.


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com