One can get pleasantly lost at Hill Aerospace Museum in Ogden, Utah; absorbing the heritage and connection between the United States Air Force and Pratt & Whitney. As many know, history has a way of repeating itself, clearly indicated at a rousing ceremony at Hill Air Force Base last week.
"IOC means we're no longer worried about hitting a test point, we're concerned about hitting targets," said Tim Forsythe, a former Air Force pilot and now general manager of Combat Air Force Programs at Pratt & Whitney.
Forsythe is correct, because the wait is officially over. And it came with a warning for enemies who may test the most cutting-edge fighter plane in the world.
"This is the picture you will likely see before you depart this planet," said Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff for the United States Air Force. Speaking before hundreds of airmen, he was referencing the F-35As behind them. "Actually, let me change that. You'll still depart the planet, but you'll never see these."
With F-35As artistically parked on the tarmac at Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah, the fifth-generation fighter program was declared to have achieved initial operational capability, or "I-O-C," at special ceremony celebrating the accomplishment.
"The vision, the vision that many people have had for years now, of the Air Force of the future, is no longer a vision, but, in fact, has become reality," said Deborah Lee James, secretary of the Air Force.
The advanced technologies on the aircraft, from the F135 engine to the plane's stealth capabilities, are well known, and getting better.
"The Pratt & Whitney [engine], the amount of thrust that's produced with that airplane the efficiency of it, and the range and endurance you get out of the airplane, we're going to continue to work on it," said Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle, commander, Air Combat Command.
But a focal point of this celebration was the men and women who have worked more than a decade to get to this point – including the people employed by the dependable engine company.
"It was our engineers, it was our operations, it was our customer support it was our program office. Really it's about the team of people that made this happen," said Mark Buongiorno, vice president, F135 Propulsion System.
"It's a very proud day for all of us, we worked really hard at Hill Air Force Base to get to where we are today," said Dan Spratto, Pratt & Whitney site lead, Hill Air Force Base.
A moment of history commemorating a future that is here. From piston engines to TF33 turbofans to the F135 – that link between the United States Air Force and Pratt & Whitney … only gets more powerful.
"This is just the beginning, and now it's about continuing to deliver," Buongiorno said.
"It's more of a necessity than any can possibly realize," Forsythe said.