According to a news release by the Bay Defense Alliance (BDA) Tuesday night, Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Fla. could be the new home of the new mission referred to as RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) MQ-9 base “Y” mission. This mission will result in 1603 jobs, 24 aircraft and more than $250 million dollars in military construction for Bay County. According to officials with the BDA, this mission is one of the largest Air Force Strategic Basing initiatives in the past 20 years.
The basing process eventually narrowed the search to just four installations, including Tyndall Air Force Base. This Air Force mission is critical to delivering combat airpower and it will grow and thrive in a place where the pilots, aircrews, support personnel and their families can experience the quality of life that has made Bay County an outstanding defense community for 75 years.
Today, Air Force Secretary, Heather Wilson, announced her recommendation of the preferred basing location, a base that has a long and proven track record of success in bedding down new or expanding missions, a culture that includes the largest fleet of America’s most advanced F-22 aircraft, access to outstanding ranges and decades of experience with
“I could not be more thrilled and proud to learn the Air Combat Command will take the next steps to stand up this mission at Tyndall Air Force Base,” said Tom Neubauer, President of the Bay Defense Alliance. “Clearly, Tyndall was selected based on scoring criteria. However, our community stayed focused on communicating to the Air Force, our interest in supporting this important mission.”
Neubauer said the BDA, Congressional Delegation, a defense-friendly State Legislature and Governor all helped make this achievement possible.
This process began in 2015 when two members of the BDA had the opportunity to visit Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where ACC hosts the Remotely Piloted Aircraft MQ1 and MQ9 training mission at the 558th Flying Training Squadron. The following year, a similar opportunity was offered to visit Creech AFB, Nevada, host to the USAF RPA command and control facility operated by the 432 Air Expeditionary Wing. These visits provided a look into the future, at a mission that will continue to grow, as remotely piloted systems effectively deliver combat airpower. Local officials also
learned much about the vital need to recruit and retain the pilots and aircrews who operate these systems.
As the Air Force began to look across the entire enterprise for locations that offer the right kind of operating environment, emphasis was placed on considering locations outside of the desert. The expansion plan included Base X (439 people, MCE only) and Base Y (1603 people), which includes a headquarters, a (MCE) Mission
Control Element, a LRE (Launch and Recovery Element) and 24 MQ-9 aircraft.
In January 2017, Shaw AFB, SC was selected as the preferred location for the Base X mission, and several other bases were considered, including Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; Moody AFB, Georgia; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; and Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
Following that decision, a SATF (Site Activation Task Force) visited Tyndall AFB for several days to evaluate facilities, proposed locations and other issues related to the bed down. The SATF had also visited Shaw AFB, SC; Eglin AFB, FL and soon thereafter, Vandenberg AFB, CA.
The scoring for each base was evaluated by the Air Force and senior leaders offered recommendations to Secretary of the Air Force. The most recent meeting of the Executive Steering Group was Monday, September 23, 2017. In the week following, the secretary makes the decision on a preferred location for the bed down.
BDA officials say the next steps are significant, as the environmental impact study moves forward and further evaluation of airspace and mission de-confliction is studied. Once the EIS is complete, three years of phased construction is scheduled to take place with completion dates in FY 2021, 2022 and 2023.
The manning described in the wing tasking brief estimates 1603 people, to include 255 officers, 1221 enlisted, 14 civilian and about 113 additional positions for increased base operating support. The MQ-9 is a remotely piloted aircraft 36 feet in length, 66 feet in width and stands 12.5 feet off the ground.
This mission will add to the military value of Tyndall Air Force Base and will help assure the viability of the base well into the future.