Three new long-promised F-35 squadrons are officially coming to Tyndall Air Force Base following base redesigns underway since Hurricane Michael in 2018.
According to an Air Force press release on Monday, a record of decision was issued by the Air Force to make Tyndall the site of three new squadrons of the F-35A Lightning II.
As has been expected, the first set of F-35s is planned to arrive in September 2023. Each squadron will have 24 Joint Strike Fighters, 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, airspace, and quality of life for airmen, the press release stated. The selection process included a thorough environmental impact analysis in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The decision follows a 2018 proposal by the Air Force to base F-35s at Tyndall after extensive damage from the Category 5 hurricane fueled the base’s $5 billion redesign to become the Department of Defense’s first “Installation of the Future.” The redesign has made it possible for Tyndall to accommodate the unique needs of the F-35s.
“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,” Col. Greg Moseley, commander of the 325th, said in the press release. “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.”
The first phase of the NEPA process was a Programmatic Environmental Assessment that took about seven months and was approved in May 2020, authorizing the demolition required to prepare for construction of new facilities. The second phase for Tyndall resulted in publication of a draft Environmental Impact Statement presented for public comment on July 14, 2020.
Bay Defense Alliance President Tom Neubauer shared his excitement to the Bay County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning.
“We are grateful for the efforts of Congressman Neal Dunn and his team for taking the lead role with Florida’s congressional delegation since Oct. 10, 2018,” Neubauer said.
Neubauer also showed gratitude to the men and women at Tyndall who made it possible to bring the F-35s to Bay County.
With Tyndall getting the three new squadrons, officials are seeking to boost the quality of life in Bay County. The squadrons will bring in plenty of airmen, many of whom will have families.
As such, part of the preparation at Tyndall has included partnering with the local community and leaders to make the airmen’s transition easier. Some of that includes instituting the military spouse employment program to help spouses of airmen enter the workplace.
In addition to the quality of life development, Tyndall’s location is a key selling point for the F-35s. Tyndall adjoins the Gulf Range Complex, which is comprised of 130,000 square miles of training airspace over the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the few ranges in the United States capable of supporting large-scale air combat training.
Direct access to the range is essential for fifth-generation fighter readiness and for live-fire testing and training.
“The airspace surrounding Tyndall is a national treasure,” Moseley said. “The type of training conducted here integrates the DOD’s most advanced aircraft and builds a dynamic force.”
County Commission Chairman Robert Carroll has been a representative for Bay County when it comes to its partnership with Tyndall. He said he had been anticipating the news of the F-35s coming to Tyndall, but he is excited to know that it will be a reality.
Carroll said the partnership with Tyndall will continue to be important for when the airmen come to Tyndall in 2023, especially those with families.
“With the spouses, we want to make sure they have employment here, making sure our community is a part of this and welcoming them with open arms,” Carroll said. “It’s something as a commission we are all proud of. We have yet to increase any taxes going through hurricane survival and the pandemic, so keeping taxes low for them is amazing.”
Carroll added that the additional airmen coming with the new F-35 squadrons to Tyndall will boost the local economy as they shop at stores, dine out, buy real estate and contribute in other ways.
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