Bill Nelson: Tyndall won't close over Hurricane Michael damage

A US-built for sale F-22 Raptor performs during the Dubai Air Show United Arab Emirates Monday

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Nelson, who now sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, expects the base to be rebuilt as a modern Air Force facility.

Nelson, a Democrat, is up for re-election and has been touring the storm damage in the Panhandle as his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, has overseen the state's response.

The F-22 Raptor is among the most technologically advanced warplanes the USA uses.

The Air Force's top leaders said, however, that more inspections of the advanced fighters still need to be done before it is known for certain if each plane can be repaired and returned to service.

In the meantime, personnel can monitor https://www.tyndall.af.mil/Hurricane/ and the Tyndall Air Force Base Facebook page for the latest information.

"Each of us stand ready to work with the Air Force to rebuild Tyndall AFB and advocate for the resources needed to do so", the lawmakers wrote.

25 years ago, Homestead was put on a list to be shut down, a year after Congress failed to secure funding to begin rebuilding the facility after Andrew damaged 80 percent of the base. Beyond costs, the Air Force's combat readiness has taken a comparably devastating hit - 17 F-22s comprise roughly ten percent of the United States Raptor fleet. People who return during at that time will not be able to stay. The Pentagon estimated the base's annual economic impact - combining payroll, expenditures and jobs created - at $596 million.

In addition to the Raptors, Tyndall is home to T-38 Talon subsonic jet trainers, MU-2 Japanese high-wing, twin-engine turboprop aircraft and QF-16s, which are fighter jets converted into drones for target practice.

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Of the 55 F-22 stealth fighters housed at Tyndall, at least 33 were sent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in OH before Michael made landfall in nearby Mexico Beach with 155 miles per hour sustained winds. Additionally, the 601st Air Operations Center serves as the frontline defense against threats to the homeland and conducts critical relief operations following disasters such as Hurricane Michael.

Base command at Tyndall last week called the hit from Michael "widespread catastrophic damage", with every structure damaged, including hangars where planes that could not be flown out - due to maintenance or safety reasons - had been sheltered.

They said that right now, it's not safe for families to return and that airmen are not allowed back into housing.

"I feel pretty good about the future of Tyndall", Wright told reporters.

Wilson, Goldfein and Wright issued a statement Sunday that noted no injuries occurred during the storm.

Asked about the political conversation surrounding hurricane recovery, Nelson said "Now is not a time for politics".

The US Air Force reported on Monday that there was extensive damage to its Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. "As the Air Force conducts its damage assessment, we request consistent, immediate, and detailed communication of the funding and support needed to fix infrastructure, restore operations and provide for local service members, civilians and their families", they added.

Neither Nelson nor Stefanek would say what types or how many aircraft were damaged.

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