More than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighters were left behind as Hurricane Michael bore down on Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB) on Oct. 10, 2018. As reported by Air Force Magazine, in Michael’s wake, many of those Raptors are damaged, and some beyond repair, at a cost of more than $1 billion.
According to a U.S. Air Force (USAF) spokeswoman, the F-22s left behind could not fly for either mechanical or safety reasons. She said all the hangars on base were damaged too.
Aerial video showed roofs and siding torn apart by savage winds and some hangars suffered severe structural damage.
The spokeswoman explained that “the aircraft parked inside may be damaged as well, but we won’t know the extent until our crews can safely enter those hangars and make an assessment.”
She also pointed out that while the loss is significant for the service, is not devastating. “The Air Force remains capable of executing its combat mission across the world with aircraft from other bases, as well as those that were evacuated from Tyndall in advance of the hurricane.”
One Raptor could be seen in aerial footage taken the morning after the storm struck Tyndall. According to Air Force Magazine, the empennage of the airplane was visible through the missing roof of a hangar where at least five QF-16 target drones and several propeller-driven aircraft had also been sheltered. One of the QF-16s appeared to be resting on top of another, and three more were apparently pushed together by wind or water. The F-22 was surrounded by debris.
A still photograph of another damaged hangar, circulating on the internet, showed an apparently intact F-22 within.
A message from someone identifying themselves as a member of the 43rd Fighter Squadron appeared on a Facebook page called Air Force Forum. “Four 43d F-22s were left behind to ride out the hurricane,” the anonymous poster wrote. “One of them was scheduled to leave but GABed [ground aborted] after an issue prior to taxi. The other three were jets that couldn’t be spun up in time to fly.” He pointed out that two had been cannibalized for parts and the others had “issues that couldn’t be fixed. They were in hangars that [they] are usually put in according to hurricane plans.”
He also added that off-duty maintenance crews were recalled to duty “on Monday afternoon to spin up as many jets as they could to fly, with the last ones launched on Tuesday morning.”
Tyndall 325th Fighter Wing’s primary mission is to train and project unrivaled combat air power for F-22 Raptor pilots and maintenance personnel to support the combat Air Forces. Training for F-22 pilots is performed in the 43rd Fighter Squadron. Additionally, wing personnel manage the southeastern air combat maneuvering instrumentation range and provide mission-ready F-22 air dominance forces in support of the Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command/First Air Force contingency plans.
The F-22 Raptor is the Air Force’s most lethal fighter aircraft. Its combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century USAF.
The F-22, a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force, is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances and defeat threats attempting to deny access to our nation’s Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft.
Despite its unique features, Congress voted in 2009 to stop purchasing the F-22 stealth fighters after just 187 were made, hundreds less than the USAF had planned.
On Jun. 18, 2017, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has received a report on restarting production of the F-22 Raptor from the U.S. Air Force (USAF).
House lawmakers ordered the report in 2016 to determine what it would take and how much it might cost to re-start producing the high-tech, fifth generation fighter again.
However this will likely never happen.
In fact a study by USAF has found that the American taxpayer will have to fork out $50 billion to procure another 194 Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighters.
Specifically nearly $10 billion is required to restart the production line, while each jet will cost around $200 million.
“The Air Force has no plans restart the F-22 production line; it wouldn’t make economic or operational sense to do so,” said in a statement Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski.
According to a 2010 Rand study (that was a rough estimate to restart production and build a small lot of planes), restarting the F-22 production line to build just 75 more jets would have cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Part of the reason is that USAF would be building a new, improved F-22 and not the 1990s version.
It must be noted that Rand study didn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.
For all these reasons the 187 F-22s delivered to USAF will remain the only Raptors ever produced.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Teddy Techer
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
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