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Gov. Gary Herbert among the first to 'fly' in F-35 interactive cockpit simulator

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — What's it like to fly an F-35 fighter jet?

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert was one of the first Utahns to find out — sort of.

“Well that’s the best video game I've ever seen,” Herbert said.

The governor got a chance to check out the F-35 cockpit simulator Wednesday at the Rio Tinto Kennecott Mechanical Engineering Building at the University of Utah.

The F-35 is a fifth-generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, and network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. It started arriving at Hill Air Force Base in September.

“The technology here, I think, will help us very much when it comes to national defense,” Herbert said. “And just so you know, I’m a believer in the Teddy Roosevelt idea of walking softly but carrying a big stick. This is a big stick.”

Hill's active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing are the first in the Air Force to fly combat-coded F-35s.

A total of 72 F-35s and their pilots will be permanently based at Hill. The base expects one or two new jets to arrive every month until the fleet is complete in 2019. The price tag per jet: $130 million.