Tyndall Air Force Base destroyed by Hurricane Michael

QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Targets glimpsed through the roof of Hangar Five at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, following the devastating passage of Hurricane Michael.
US Air Force
An F-22 Raptor inside one of the less damaged hangars at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida following the passage of Hurricane Michael.
US Air Force

As well as killing at least 50 people in and around Florida, Hurricane Michael, the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous United States in terms of pressure also virtually wiped out Tyndall Air Force Base.

Most of the base’s aircraft, like those at other bases in the area, had been flown to safety before the storm struck on October 10, but for various reasons many aircraft, including 17 F-22 Raptors, were left behind in hangars when the rest of the fleet flew to Wright- Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

There had been concerns that the aircraft, many of which had been stored in Hangar Five, which had its roof ripped of and had partly collapsed on top of sequestered Mitsubishi Mu-2s, F-16s and the vital F-22s, would be damaged beyond repair, but that does not seem to be the case. By the end of October at least two jets had already flown out to Joint- Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia and others were being inspected in three inflatable temporary hangars.

Commander of the 325th Fighter Wing, which owns the jets, Colonel Brian Laidlaw told reporters in late October that the remainder of the damaged Raptors would leave Tyndall, under their own steam, for more in-depth assessment and maintenance at Langley in a matter of days, not weeks. The F-22s were the Air Force’s priority and now the focus of operations is shifting to the other aircraft damaged by the hurricane including based QF- 16 Full Scale Aerial Targets, Twin Otters and Mitsubishi Mu-2s used by contractors for target towing and other duties including flying support for the 337th Air Control Squadron’s Air Battle Management course. The 337th is a component of the 33rd Fighter Wing based at nearby Eglin Air Force Base. Tyndall is a vital base for the US Air Force because it not only houses the F-22s but also is home to a detachment of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron (82nd ATRS), which uses the QF-16s as targets for air-to-air missile training by units across the Air Force.

Visiting the base shortly after the catastrophe, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said Tyndall’s F-22 training mission and the 601st Air Operations Center (601st AOC), that plans, directs, and assesses air operations for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and the United States Northern Command from Tyndall, would be back up and running by the beginning of the year.

By early November dates had been announced for units to resume operations at Tyndall, including the 601st AOC that will resume operations no later than January 1, 2019 and the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group (WEG) that includes the 82nd ATRS within its remit, that will remain at Tyndall and gradually return to full activity. The 53rd WEG also includes the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron which runs Air Combat Command’s air to- air Weapons System Evaluation Program known as Combat Archer.

Some activity will relocate to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida but will maintain close links with Tyndall. For example, two training squadrons, the 43rd and 2nd Fighter Squadrons, respectively using the F-22 for fighter training and T-38 for adversary training will relocate operations to Eglin. Academic and simulator facilities at Tyndall Air Force Base will be used to support training requirements, as well as Tyndall Air Force Base’s surviving low observable maintenance facilities. The 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 4, responsible for training Raptor maintainers, will relocate with the F-22 Fighter Training Units to Eglin Air Force Base.

Personnel and F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron will be split between the US Air Force’s other three Raptor bases, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.