Let's head down to the Florida Panhandle. Being in the South, of course the area is riddled with military facilities. You can find Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City...or rather, what's left of it.
Tyndall is home to many of our latest and greatest fighter jets...not the least of which is the F-22 Raptor. As it turns out, many of those Raptors were unable to flee the oncoming storm. It's a maintenance base, and some of those planes were simply unable to fly away. The Air Force is still "assessing the damage", but it's likely many of those airframes were damaged beyond repair.
The U.S. Air Force is not ready to say just how many F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base sit damaged or crippled following Hurricane Michael's catastrophic incursion on the Florida installation.
A service spokeswoman told Military.com on Monday that officials are still assessing the damage and cannot comment on the issue until the evaluation is complete.
Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright were briefed by base officials as they toured Tyndall facilities on Sunday. The leaders concurred there was severe damage, but were hopeful that air operations on base may one day resume.
"Our maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies," the service leaders said in a joint statement. "However, damage was less than we feared and preliminary indications are promising."
Officials have yet to describe what kind of maintenance was taking place on the stealth jets that led officials to leave them at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where the other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing were evacuated to last week.
It is rumored that anywhere from seven to 17 aircraft may have been damaged by the Category 4 storm. Photos of F-22s left behind in shredded hangars that have surfaced on social media have some in the aviation community theorizing that a significant chunk of the F-22 fleet -- roughly 10 percent -- may be left stagnant for good.
The Air Force has not confirmed any of these numbers.
The F-22 is not cheap; individual unit cost was about $339m per aircraft. So do the math; hurricane Michael may have destroyed up to $5.3b of aircraft alone.
It's not the first time this has happened - a lifetime ago now, Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida and destroyed Homestead Air Force Base. A year before that, Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines and wiped out Clark Air Base. Tyndall remains in tatters, and it's unknown at this time if it will re-open or not, although Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) vows it will remain in operation. Only time will tell.