10 Percent of Critical F-22 Fleet Reportedly Damaged or Destroyed by Hurricane Michael
Hurricane Michael has decimated the Air Force's F-22 Raptors, the type of jet most critical to U.S. air-to-air superiority. Many of these critical jets were grounded at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Fla., which took a mighty hit from the hurricane. As many as 17 fighter jets — over 9 percent of the fleet and costing about $8 billion — may have been destroyed by the storm.
On Sunday, the Air Force confirmed that Gen. Dave Goldfein, USAF chief of staff, arrived at Tyndall AFB to survey the damage. "About 600 military families have been displaced, and as many as 17 F-22s may be damaged or destroyed," Foreign Policy magazine's Lara Seligman tweeted.
According to News Corp Australia Network, 55 F-22 Raptors were based at Tyndall AFB, and 33 reached the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, leaving 22 of the fighter jets unaccounted for. The Raptors cost $475 million each, so 17 of them cost $8 billion.
Many of the planes weathered the storm well, Seligman later added. "UPDATE: an Air Force official tells me USAF assessed the damage at Tyndall today, including F-22s that weathered the storm. All aircraft are intact and initial indications are 'promising,'" the Foreign Policy Pentagon correspondent added.
In her tweet, "all aircraft" arguably refers to the "F-22s that weathered the storm," as opposed to all F-22 Raptors at the base.
John Noonan, a national security expert who formerly worked for Jeb Bush's presidential campaign and writes for The Weekly Standard, emphasized just how important the decimation of the F-22 Raptor fleet would be.
"This just a massive, massive story. 10% of our most critical air-to-air superiority fighter fleet damaged or lost to Hurricane Michael," Noonan tweeted.
Christine Lynch shared a photo of an F-15 fighter blown across town by Hurricane Michael. This plane came from a static display of a decommissioned aircraft, but the image shows the power of the hurricane.
As for why the F-22 Raptors were not removed, Noonan and News Corp Australia Network gave various reasons. First, Hurricane Michael was supposed to be a tropical storm when it hit Tyndall AFB, so the full force of the storm came with little true warning.
Second, "complicated aircraft such as the F-22 must spend much of their time in hangars having their electronics, engines, equipment and structure being maintained and repaired," News Corp Australia Network explained.
Twitchy editor Greg Pollowitz asked Noonan why the planes could not have been evacuated on semi trucks, and the expert responded, "with a 44ft wingspan on a road full of civilian evacuees?"
While the damage to the U.S. air fleet has yet to be fully confirmed, and Seligman's later tweet gives reason for hope, the hit may very well be devastating. It is also tragic that 600 military families had to be evacuated, although their tragic evacuation will not damage the U.S. military's capabilities.
The full extent of Hurricane Michael's devastation remains unknown. The death toll has climbed to 18 as of Saturday.
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