Nine Missions Will Soon Return to Tyndall, Future of Base’s F-22s Uncertain

USAF on Friday unveiled a near-term schedule for limited operations to resume at Tyndall AFB, Fla. Air Force photo by SrA. Keifer Bowes.

About 1,500 airmen will return to Tyndall AFB, Fla., “in the coming weeks,” said the Air Force on Friday as it rolled out a near-term schedule for limited operations to resume at the hurricane-ravaged base.

Within three months, all but about 500 airmen will return to the Florida Panhandle, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said. The majority, including more than 800 airmen assigned to the 601st Air Operations Center, will return to Tyndall, though many will go to near-by Eglin AFB, Fla.

“We are focused on taking care of our airmen and their families and ensuring the resumption of operations. These decisions were important first steps to provide stability and certainty,” Wilson said in a Friday release. “We’re working hard to return their lives to normalcy as quickly as possible.”

Seventeen Raptors that were deemed unflyable were left to ride out Hurricane Michael three weeks ago. One of the main hangars sheltering the fifth-generation fighters collapsed as the 150-plus mile per hour winds ripped through the base. Though officials initially feared some of the aircraft would not return to the air, Air Force Magazine reported on Wednesday that only three remained and all were now in flyable condition. Wilson said on Friday the final F-22s will leave the base by Nov. 6.

In total nine missions will return to Tyndall:

  • The 601st Air Force Operations Center will resume operations no later than Jan. 1, 2019.
  • The 337th Air Control Squadron will resume air battle manager training at a reduced rate by Jan. 1, 2019, and full production is expected no later than the summer of 2019.
  • The Air Force Medical Agency Support team will continue to provide medical facility oversight.
  • The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Air Force Legal Operations Agency will operate from useable facilities on base.
  • The 53rd Air-to-Air Weapons Evaluation Group; the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron, Det. 1; and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center will continue their missions at Tyndall.
  • Air Force recruiters will operate from local offices.

However, airmen assigned to the 43rd and 2nd Fighter Squadrons will continue to train on F-22 simulators located at Tyndall, while the training aircraft, F-22 Raptors, and T-38 Talons assigned to the units will relocate to Eglin. The 372rd Training Squadron, Det. 4, also will relocate to Eglin AFB.

Two missions will not return to Tyndall for the time being:

  • Twenty-one F-22s and personnel from the 95th Fighter Squadron—the only operational Raptor squadron based at Tyndall—will temporarily relocate to JB Langley-Eustis, Va.; JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The Air Force did not provide a specific breakdown of personnel and aircraft for each base.
  • The Noncommissioned Officer Academy will temporarily disperse across four locations: McGhee-Tyson, Tenn.; Maxwell AF—Gunter Annex, Ala.; Keesler AFB, Miss.; and Sheppard AFB, Texas.

Wilson said there has not been a decision on when, or if, to the 95th FS will return to Tyndall, or whether USAF will change its plan to stand up an MQ-9 Reaper wing at the base.

The rebuild will require supplemental funding from Congress, though no estimate is yet available and USAF officials say it will take years to rebuild the base.