TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) - Tyndall Air Force Base southeast of Panama City, where pilots are trained to fly the F-22 stealth fighter, won’t be abandoned due to its direct hit from Hurricane Michael, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson vowed Monday.
Base command at Tyndall says the hit from Michael caused “widespread catastrophic damage,” with every structure damaged, including hangars where planes had been sheltered that could not be flown out due to maintenance or safety reasons.
Speaking to reporters at Tallahassee International Airport, Nelson sought to dismiss growing concerns that the storm-battered base will follow the path of what had been Homestead Air Force Base after it was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Nelson, who currently sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, expects the base to be rebuilt as a modern Air Force facility.
“It is critically located right next to one of our greatest national assets, the Air Force Eastern Gulf Test and Training Range, which is the largest testing and training range for the United States military in the world," said Nelson.
25 years ago, Homestead was put on a list to be shut down, a year after Congress failed to secure funding to begin rebuilding the facility after Andrew damaged 80 percent of the base. The facility later reopened as a smaller Air Force Reserve base.
Last year, the Pentagon valued the facilities at Tyndall, where approximately 3,600 military personnel are stationed, at $3.4 billion.
Tyndall is home to the 325th Fighter Wing, which trains pilots for the F-22 Raptors, which are individually valued at up to $339 million.
Of the 55 F-22 stealth fighters housed at Tyndall, at least 33 were relocated ahead of the Category 4 storm’s landfall with 155 mile per hour sustained winds on Wednesday.