More Than 17 F-22s May Have Been Damaged by Hurricane Michael. The planes were grounded by maintenance issues and unable to escape.
The U.S. Air Force is assessing what damage more than a dozen F-22 Raptor fighters suffered when Tyndall Air Force Base sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Michael.
Up to $2 billion in fighter jets were trapped on the ground because of maintenance issues and forced to ride out the Category 4 hurricane. Photographs show the hangars where F-22s were parked suffered severe damage.
All 3,600 military personnel and their families living on the base were successfully evacuated beforehand. The 93 Air Force personnel who stayed behind to keep an eye on the base are all safe and accounted for.
Up to 17 of Tyndall’s F-22s might have sustained damage or been destroyed during the storm. The aircraft, each of which cost $150 million, were unable to escape with the rest of the base’s F-22 fleet to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The jets left behind were parked inside hangars and officials hoped for the best.
JUST IN: @usairforce confirms that @SecAFOfficial, @GenDaveGoldfein and CMSAF Gen. Kaleth Wright just touched down at @TeamTyndall to survey the damage from #hurricanemicheal. About 600 military families have been displaced, and as many as 17 F-22s may be damaged or destroyed.
— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) October 14, 2018
Post-hurricane photos and videos showed extensive damage to the hangars, with at least one F-22 Raptor visible inside. Another photo showed a QF-16 target drone (an F-16 modified to act as an unmanned practice target) with the aircraft nose cone broken off.
The U.S. Air Force operates 186 F-22 Raptor fighters, of which only 123 are “combat coded”—that is, they have the full suite of hardware and software to make them fully operational combat-ready fighters. The rest of the F-22 fleet lacks the full range of combat capability and is largely relegated to training duties.
So one F-22 airframe has been spotted in a roofless hangar at Tyndall. Check out the upper left portion of this photo. No idea if this is flying airframe or a ground trainer or what, but it doesn't look good. More on Tyndall AFB's sad state here: https://t.co/JikiO65eny pic.twitter.com/GlvQ6hnJP7
— Tyler Rogoway (@Aviation_Intel) October 12, 2018
Tyndall is home to the 325th Fighter Wing which operates 55 F-22s split between the 43rd and 95th Fighter Squadrons. As The Diplomat explains, “The 95th Fighter Squadron’s 24 F-22s are combat-coded and operational. The 43rd Fighter Squadron’s 31 F-22s comprise the primary training unit for the Raptor.”
— steven wilson (@swilson88) October 12, 2018
The Air Force has yet to reveal exactly how many F-22s were left behind, how many of those were damaged, and the extent of the damage. We also don’t know how many of the damaged jets, if any, were combat-coded models.
Initial estimates of the damage were troubling, but Foreign Policy’s Lara Seligman later tweeted that “all aircraft are intact and initial indications are ‘promising’.” It’s worth noting that the F-22 Raptor is built tough, designed to fly twice as fast as the speed of sound and in all weather conditions. That said, falling or wind-whipped debris from the hangar structure is another matter entirely. Hurricane-force winds might also pick up a fighter jet, which is built to be lifted into the air, after all, and plunk it down hard.
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