Tyndall AFB, Florida
Tyndall Air Force Base, the main training facility for US F-22 Raptor pilots, in Panama City, Florida, is still “very much in recovery mode” following extensive damaged by Category 5 Hurricane Michael in October 2018, Colonel Brian Laidlaw revealed in an interview with NPR 31 May 2019. "When you walked out of one building, certainly every direction that you would look, you see destruction. Debris was everywhere. All the roads were blocked — mostly trees, in some cases power lines. So the initial reaction walking around was, this is a big deal," Laidlaw told NPR, describing the damage inflicted by the hurricane. The hurricane damaged the drone runway, Air Force Civil Engineer Center laboratories, training venues and the local elementary school. The F-22 stealth fighters and other aircraft stationed at the base were flown to safety before the storm.
Hurricane Michael inflicted $4.7 billion of damage to Tyndall AFB in October 2018. Hurricane Michael was recently upgraded and recognized as a Category 5 storm. It was one of only four Category 5 hurricanes to make recorded landfall in the continental United States. The rare magnitude of destruction damaged nearly 700 buildings and forced the Air Force to relocate 11,000 personnel and 46 aircraft.
The Air Force will be forced to stop all new rebuilding efforts at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, starting 01 May 2019 because of the absence of Congressional funding. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced the pending work stoppage 27 March 2019 at a public event, citing a critical need for supplemental funding to recover from the natural disasters that struck Tyndall and Offutt Air Force Bases. Then, in March 2019, a historic flood inundated Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Flood waters submerged dozens of buildings and much of the flightline under eight feet of water.
“Homeowners and businesses purchase insurance to protect themselves from these kinds of disasters, but that’s not an option for the military,” Wilson said. “When unavoidable catastrophes strike our facilities, supplemental funding from Congress is our only recourse. If they don’t step in, our communities, our readiness and our security all pay the price.”
Wilson said the work stoppage would prevent new contracts from being started, including new rebuilding efforts. The work stoppage does not apply to contracts already funded for clean-up and repair efforts. Wilson previously announced the deferral of 61 critical infrastructure projects across 18 states and five overseas locations worth a total of $272.4 million as the Air Force prioritized funds to ensure the safety and welfare of its people and equipment while waiting on supplemental funding.
“The supplemental funding and budget reprogramming requests are about more than just Tyndall and Offutt (AFBs),” Wilson said. “We’re robbing other projects to fund minimal recovery efforts because Congress hasn’t moved forward yet with recovery funding. The lack of funding now for these projects is impacting all of our bases.”
Wilson warned of more impacts rapidly approaching in the absence of a supplemental appropriation to recover Tyndall and Offutt AFBs. The Air Force expects to stop intensive depot-level aircraft repairs starting mid-May, which would ground five bomber aircraft later this fall and create a long-term backlog for E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft maintenance. Offutt AFB recovery efforts and flying operations are also at risk if delays in funding continue. “We’ll continue to face natural disasters but we can’t set the precedent of not rebuilding our bases following a storm like Hurricane Michael,” Wilson said. “A natural disaster shouldn’t decide whether our communities keep their bases.”
Following the damage to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, caused by Hurricane Michael, the Air Force recommended 07 December 2018 that Congress use supplemental funding for rebuilding the base to prepare to receive the F-35 Lightning II fighter at the north Florida installation. The Air Force has done a preliminary evaluation to confirm Tyndall AFB can accommodate up to three F-35 squadrons. The operational F-22 Raptors formerly at Tyndall AFB can also be accommodated at other operational bases increasing the squadron size from 21 to 24 assigned aircraft. If this decision is approved and supplemental funds to rebuild the base are appropriated, F-35s could be based at Tyndall AFB beginning in 2023. Basing already announced in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin will not be affected by this decision.
Pine and palmetto trees, scrub brush and swamps covered the area known as the East Peninsula. Bulldozers worked around-the-clock to clear the brush and fill in the swamps. This activity marked the beginning of construction of Tyndall AFB in May 1941. The name of Tyndall Field was suggested by Congressman Bob Sikes of the Third Congressional District of Florida, in memory of Lt. Frank B. Tyndall, a World War I ace, who was killed on active duty in 1930.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the first of 2,000 troops arrived at Tyndall Field. Although construction was incomplete, instructors and students began preparing for the first class. The first class of 40 gunnery students began on Feb. 23, 1942. Of the thousands of students passing through the Tyndall gates, the most famous was actor Clark Gable, a student here in 1943.
One common thread between those early years and today's training at Tyndall is foreign student training. It began at Tyndall in 1943 with French Air Force gunnery students being the first and Chinese students following later that year. Today, foreign students attend weapons controller training at Tyndall.
When World War II ended, Tyndall went through the demobilization process, as did most Army Air Corps units. Possibilities looked up as the base fell under the control of the Tactical Air Command in 1946. This only lasted three months, as Tyndall became part of Air University.
In September 1950, Tyndall became an Air Training Command unit, designated as the USAF Pilot Instructor School. This relationship lasted until September 1957, when Tyndall became part of the Air Defense Command, an association that would continue for more than 22 years.
Tyndall began hosting William Tell in 1958, just one year after becoming an Air Defense Command unit. That competition continues today under the sponsorship of Air Combat Command.
Tyndall's second association with the Tactical Air Command began in October 1979. Over the next few years, modernization, upgrade and reorganization became the key words around Tyndall. A major reorganization occurred on July 1, 1981, with the activation of the 325th Fighter Weapons Wing. The wing began its mission at Tyndall with the F-101, F-106 and T-33 aircraft, while at the same time phasing out the F-101 and F-106 aircraft and preparing for the arrival of Tyndall's first F-15 aircraft in 1983.
Over the years, Tyndall gained additional missions as other units were stationed on the base. The Air Force Engineering and Services Center was formed at Tyndall as a part of a 44 reorganization. In 1991, it was renamed the Air Force Civil Engineering Agency. The 23rd Air Division was renamed the Southeast Air Defense Sector, also relocated to Tyndall. They had the responsibility for the air defense of the southeastern United States.
As the base entered its 50th year, Tyndall underwent yet another reorganization in response to the Department of Defense efforts to streamline defense management. Headquarters, 1st Air Force moved from Langley AFB, Va., to Tyndall and the 325th Fighter Wing became the installation host. Transition continued as the base transferred from the Air Combat Command to the Air Education and Training Command in July 1993. This move signaled a heightened emphasis on Tyndall's training mission and a more streamlined approach to training.
Today, that training continues. The 325th FW is responsible for building an "air superiority team." The wing conducts training for F-15 pilots, air traffic controllers, F-15 specific intelligence personnel, weapons controllers and crew chiefs specially trained on the F-15. The men and women of Tyndall stand ready to defend the interest of America today and tomorrow as their forefathers did before them.
Tyndall AFB was struck by a tornado on Feb. 16, 2003. The tornado caused an estimated $250,000 worth of damage to 10 facilities, including 1st Air Force A-1 building, and more than 30 vehicles in the area. No one was injured and base operations were uninterrupted.
Secretary of Defense Recommendations: Realign Langley AFB, VA. It would move base-level F-15 avionics intermediate maintenance from Langley AFB to Tyndall AFB, FL, by establishing a Centralized Intermediate Repair Facility (CIRF) at Tyndall AFB for F-15 avionics. Justification:
In another recommendation, DoD would establish a CIRF for F100 engines at New Orleans Air Reserve Station (Air National Guard unit) by realigning base-level F100 engine intermediate maintenance from Tyndall Air Force Base and Jacksonville Air Guard Station.
Secretary of Defense Justification: This first recommendation would standardize stateside and deployed intermediate-level maintenance concepts, and would compliment other CIRF recommendations made by the Air Force. It would increase maintenance productivity and support to the warfighter by consolidating and smoothing dispersed, random workflows. As a result of other recommendations, Tyndall would be expected to have two full squadrons (48 F-22s) as compared to only one squadron (24 F-15s) at Langley.
This second recommendation would standardize stateside and deployed intermediate-level maintenance concepts, and compliment other CIRF recommendations made by the Air Force. These CIRFs would increase maintenance productivity and support to the warfighter by consolidating dispersed and random workflows, improving reliability-centered maintenance. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 66 jobs (33 direct jobs and 33 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Panama City-Lynn Haven, FL, Metropolitan Statistical economic area (less than 0.1 percent).
Community Concerns: There were no formal expressions from the community.
Commission Findings: The Commission found that the realignment is consistent with the Air Force goal's of improved efficacies and manpower costs savings for intermediate level maintenance for F-15 avionics. The Commission expressed concern that the Centralized Intermediate Repair Facility is transportation-centric and that delays to transportation of the F-15 avionics packages from the repair facility to Langley Air Force Base could affect unit readiness, but after discussion with DoD, the Commission determined that the Air Force has sufficient experience, planning and resources to mitigate against this possible effect.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found the Secretary's recommendation consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission approves the recommendation of the Secretary.
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