HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- U.S. Sen. Robert Bennett, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop and other representatives from the state of Utah joined U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrew E. Busch, commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center, and other Air Force and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to cut the ribbon at a new F-22 facility here Sept. 9.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District built the $39.2 million facility, officially known as the F-22 Fuel Composite Overhaul Test Facility.
"As a senator from Utah, I am grateful that Hill is growing," said Bennett.
The 75,000 square-foot facility will be primarily used for painting, and was built to fully accommodate the F-22 aircraft, known as the Raptor.
"This building is here because of teamwork," said Busch. "This is an excellent example of teamwork that is needed to be able to sustain the Air Force for the next several generations."
The facility includes three paint booths, a maintenance bay and administrative and supply offices. Each paint booth is capable of housing an F-22 aircraft and is supported by machines that allow for the complete control of the atmosphere inside the booth. The temperature, humidity and airflow are all monitored by the machines, providing the pristine conditions for painting.
"They control the environment inside to make the painting application for the composite paint," said Jason Redeen, project engineer with the Sacramento District's Utah resident office. "It's one of a kind for the F-22."
The resident office oversaw the construction of the facility.
The facility's maintenance bay includes a three-ton crane and a completely mechanized tool room. Workers will be able to select a tool from a list, and the machines within the room will find and provide the tool to the worker.
Safety was also an important part of the design of the facility.
"Because this is a fueled aircraft hanger - aircraft come in here fueled - it poses a hazard for explosive reasons," said Redeen. "We have a foam dump system. It's like a secondary fire protection system."
Each paint booth and the maintenance bay have large ducts in the ceiling that delivers the fire-retardant foam.
The ducts have two doors or openings, which prevent paint fumes from entering the foam dump system during normal operations. In the event of a fire, the doors would open simultaneously, one dumping foam and one pulling air out. During testing, the foam system performed extremely well.
"It covered the entire floor with a meter-deep (of foam) within one minute," said Redeen.
The facility is fully operational and work will begin immediately, with the first aircraft coming in for paint within weeks.
As impressive as the $39.2 million facility is, it is only the beginning.
The facility is phase one of a two-phase complex planned for the base. The second phase consists of a $45 million, 90,000 square-foot. facility, which is already under construction. This second facility will add an additional paint booth, three maintenance bays, administrative and supply offices, and a blast booth. The blast booth will be used to remove old paint from the aircraft prior to painting. A robotic system within the booth will spray planes down and take off all of the old paint, said Redeen. "They can then tow the plane out of the blast booth and into one of the paint booths."
This will allow for a one-stop shop for the F-22, said Redeen.
"From stripping the plane, painting the plane, to maintenance on the plane. Everything will be right here (at Hill)," said Redeen.
"This building is significant not just for Hill, not just for the military and civilian workforce who are here, as well as to the state," said Bishop. "It is also significant to the nation.
"For over half a century, this country has dominated the skies throughout the world. This facility will be maintaining the vehicle that we need to maintain that dominance and maintain our future."