Following the devastation of Hurricane Michael, the future of Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle was unclear. But now, just a few years later, the military base hasn’t just been rebuilt. It’s growing. The base announced this week Tyndall would be the new home of three new squadrons of the F-35A Lightning II fighter jets.
According to a Tyndall AFB officials, the decision followed a 2018 proposal by the Air Force to base F-35s at Tyndall after extensive damage from Hurricane Michael prompted the base’s re-design to become the Department of Defense’s first Installation of the Future. This has allowed the Air Force to rebuild the base to accommodate the unique needs of the F-35A.
Bay Defense Alliance President Tom Neubauer said in an interview Tuesday the addition of the fighter jets, the pilots and their families and thousands of new jobs was an extremely exciting development for the Panama City area.
“This is probably one of the largest economic development decisions that was made for the state of Florida in a long time,” he said. “We’re going to see an amazing number of people, contractors for the next few years, building all these facilities.”
“We’re going to have a major impact on our school system,” Neubauer said. “Certainly, on every business in town and the future is really very bright for our community, certainly in the next four years with all the construction and then after that with these new next, fifth generation F-35s showing up at Tyndall.”
It is also a major coup for the air base, as well.
“Adding F-35 squadrons at Tyndall ensures Airmen will continue to have a strategic advantage as the 325th Fighter Wing enhances fighter training and combat readiness,” said Colonel Greg Moseley, 325th Fighter Wing commander.
“Air dominance is critical to the National Defense Strategy and basing F-35s at Tyndall will only further our service’s air superiority goals for 2030 and beyond,” said Moseley.
The F-35s will be delivered to three fighter squadrons in multiple phases, with the first aircraft planned to arrive in September 2023. Each of the squadrons will have 24 Joint Strike Fighters assigned; totaling 72 aircraft assigned to Tyndall’s 325th Fighter Wing once full mission capability is achieved.
Air Force officials selected Tyndall based on numerous attributes, including infrastructure capability, quality of life for Airmen, and airspace. The selection process included a thorough environmental impact analysis, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
Tyndall adjoins the Gulf Range Complex, comprised of 130,000 square miles of training airspace over the Gulf of Mexico, and is one of the few ranges in the U.S. capable of supporting large-scale air combat training. Direct access to this range is essential for fifth-generation fighter readiness and for live-fire testing and training.
“The airspace surrounding Tyndall is a national treasure,” said Moseley. “The type of training conducted here integrates the DoD’s most advanced aircraft and builds a dynamic force.”