(National Sentinel) Irreplaceable: Tyndall Air Force Base, home to some of the most advanced fighter planes in the world, the F-22 Raptor, sustained a direct hit from Catagory 4(.5) Hurricane Michael last week, leaving it completely devastated and, most likely, permanently closed.
But that’s not all the Air Force — and the country — lost during the storm.
More than a dozen fifth-generation F-22s, already known as “finicky” fighters, were left behind at Tyndall because they were unable to fly in their current condition. Now, according to one report, it’s likely at least some of those planes were mostly or completely destroyed by the storm.
And the worst part is, not only have the losses cost taxpayers billions of dollars, the F-22 production line has been closed for years so every one that is lost is literally irreplaceable.
The Washington Free Beacon reports:
The Air Force lost several advanced F-22 stealth fighters that were damaged or destroyed during the hurricane that leveled Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida last week.
Air Force sources said 17 F-22s—one of the military’s most advanced stealth fighter jets—were unable to fly away to avoid the Category 4 storm and were damaged in hangars at the base that were not built to withstand major hurricanes.
Most of the stay-behind aircraft, including F-22s, QF-16 target drones and Mu-2 aircraft trainers, sustained some damage and several were destroyed when Hurricane Michael came ashore near the base on the Oct. 10.
A few of the F-22s were undamaged, the sources said.
Even though the Air Force has had more than five days to assess the damage, a spokeswoman for the service would not provide any specifics. “We don’t have that information at the moment,” she told the Free Beacon.
Defense News reported over the weekend that at least some F-22s were affected after pictures of storm damage at Tyndall including F-22 aircraft appeared on social media:
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an email that some aircraft were left in Tyndall’s hangars due to maintenance or safety reasons, and all of those hangars were damaged when the Category 4 storm pounded the Gulf Coast Wednesday.
“We anticipate 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,” Stefanek said.
— steven wilson (@swilson88) October 12, 2018
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday during a trip to Vietnam said that the air base “took significant damage.”
“But we’ll know after we get them out of the hangars that are damaged and get more work done,” Mattis said. “So I’m not ready to say it can all be fixed, but our initial review was perhaps more positive than I anticipated in light of the amount of damage.”
Prior to the storm, 55 F-22s were based at Tyndall; most were flown out prior to the storm making landfall. But 17 jets remained at the base in hangars not built to withstand a Category 4(.5) hurricane.
But it gets even worse. As The National Interest reports, a majority of the Air Force’s 186 F-22s weren’t even ready for combat duty prior to the storm:
A Government Accountability Office report published in July indicated that less than half of the Air Force’s 186 F-22s — 80 airframes total — are mission-capable, with some 125 assigned to combat units — a rate, the Times points out, is the lowest in the Air Force due to the airframe’s costly and unique maintenance requirements.
So that means if even a dozen of the planes is a total loss, Hurricane Michael all but decimated the Air Force’s F-22 fleet.
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