Tyndall AFB welcomes three new F35′s

First F35A Arrives At Tyndall
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 10:56 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Tyndall Air Force Base welcomed three new F-35A Lightning II Jets Tuesday.

Dozens of people including, airmen, family, friends and community leaders gathered at the base for the debut of the new jets. The F-35′s will be replacing the F-22 Raptors. The Raptors were temporarily homed at Eglin Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael in 2018. Currently, the majority of the jets are now stationed at Langley Eustis Air Force Base.

Florida’s Second Congressional District Congressman Neal Dunn says the new arrivals were a long time coming.

“We’ve been rebuilding the base now for about four and a half years plus and we’re now ready to take some honest-to-god airplanes on board,” Dunn said.

Lieutenant Hunter Powell is the 95th Fighter Squadron Commander. He says the new F-35s are top tier.

“It is sleek. It’s new. It’s got new bells and whistles, constantly getting new software, it goes fast goes high, goes low,” Powell said. “Not only is it a ton of fun to fly but it’s also extremely capable.”

In addition to Tyndall’s new jet additions, the base will now embark on a new combat mission.

“It’s not just a training base for training new pilots but it’s actually preparing for if we need to go to combat,” Powell said. “So we will get pilots in from training pipelines who have just learned to fly the F-35s they’ll come here and then we’ll continue to build them as wingmen then we’ll build them as flight leads where they can lead around two of four ships and then all the way to the instructor pilots here and then that way we’ll be postured and ready to go if we get any nations calling.”

Colonel George Watkins is the Commander of the 325th Fighter Wing. He said the milestone moment was a community effort.

“All the hard work that went into that by all of our airmen and all our community members who supported us along the way,” Watkins said. “Frankly our base wouldn’t still be here without some of our community leadership speaking up and saying hey we really want to keep the base here.”

Watkins also said more airmen continue to make their way to the area.

“We’re getting more airmen every day,” Watkins said. “Since January we got about 50 maintainers in, we’ve gotten about 20-25 people in Opps, but over the coming years we’ll see it grow. incrementally month to month we’ll see a lot more people coming in upwards of 12-14 hundred people in addition working on the base as we grow the squadron out.”

Watkins said by this time next year they expect to have a total of 15 F-35s.