PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – The Air Force is eyeing Langley Air Force base as the new permanent home of the F-22 Raptor squadron that was formerly housed at Tyndall Air Force Base.
U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson officially announced the Air Force’s recommendation on Tuesday.
The F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Unit (FTU) was moved to Eglin Air Force Base near Pensacola after Tyndall was destroyed by Hurricane Michael.
Both Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, who sent a letter back in February on behalf of Virginia’s combined Congressional Delegation calling for the Air Force to send the squadron to Hampton Roads, both released a statement on Tuesday showing their continued support.
“We are pleased that after careful evaluation, the U.S. Air Force has determined that Joint Base Langley-Eustis should permanently house the F-22 training squadron. There is nowhere better to house these aircraft, the unit and supporting personnel and their families than Hampton Roads – a region celebrated for its defense assets and long history of strengthening our nation’s national security. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force and the Virginia Air National Guard as it moves forward with the relocation process.”
In a phone interivew, Senator Tim Kaine said, “Langley had sufficient capacity for three squadrons, but only two are there. We said hey — this is a perfect solution. As you’re rebuilding Tyndall, move the F-22 raptors from Tyndall, move them up to Langely, we’re going to be the perfect spot. We believe that could bring about another 800 jobs into the region, which is also really helpful.“
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in statement Wednesday, “We are incredibly pleased the Air Force has identified Joint Base Langley-Eustis as a candidate base for the F-22 Raptor formal training unit.“
Congresswoman Elaine Luria released a statement saying, “Joint Base Langley-Eustis is the perfect place to permanently house the F-22 training squadron. I was proud to advocate for the Hampton Roads region earlier this year because our military families and defense assets are second to none. There is no better place to support this critical national security mission.“
Air force officials say they will conduct an environmental impact investigation before moving the squadron. That investigation takes two to four years to complete, officials said.
“The permanent solution must address readiness and pilot production by ensuring the F-22 FTU is set up at a location that optimizes readiness and supports the Secretary of Defense’s requirement to improve Mission Capability Rates to 80 percent,“ officials wrote.
Congressman Rob Wittman, Ranking Member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, said, “I believe that the Air Force is making the right decision by relocating the F-22 training unit to Joint Base Langley-Eustis Air Force Base. Langley-Eustis has the right space and existing infrastructure to allow for an easy, cost-effective transition as well as provide an ideal facility for training. The FTU was originally located at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Michael. Virginia has a long history of supporting our nation’s military, and we look forward to hosting this unit in Hampton Roads.“