Air Force struggles to determine cost of F-22 damage from hurricane

Air Force struggles to determine cost of F-22 damage from hurricane
© Greg Nash

The Air Force has yet to assign a dollar amount to repair F-22 Raptor fighter jets damaged during Hurricane Michael, in part, because the fifth-generation fighter jets are stuck in damaged hangars and awaiting assessment.

The service is assessing the damage at Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, which was hammered last week by the Category 4 storm. Officials are making sure the aircraft hangars used to house the F-22s are structurally sound before removing the jets for a more in-depth review with maintenance experts, an Air Force spokesperson told The Hill.

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Officials stressed, however, that none of the aircraft were destroyed.

“We do not have any destroyed aircraft at Tyndall. Visually all of the aircraft are intact, they generally look to be in good shape,” Air Force Director of public affairs Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas told reporters Tuesday.

Approximately 55 F-22s are assigned to the Florida base. Reports indicate 17 were left behind as they were in the midst of maintenance. Those aircraft were secured in hangars while the others were flown out of Florida ahead of the storm.

The Air Force would not say how many were left at the base, citing operational security reasons. 

The service lists the jets, made by Lockheed Martin, at a cost of $143 million each. Added research and development costs put the price around $330 million per unit.

Thomas told reporters that he had viewed the aircraft while visiting the base with Air Force leaders over the weekend.

“Certainly some damage has been sustained by some of those aircraft, but we expect that they’re all be fixable, they’re all be repairable, we expect they will all fly again,” he said.

Thomas added that until maintenance professionals — including Lockheed and Air Force engineers — are able to “tow those jets out and be able to give a good structural assessment, it’s going to be hard to tell you what the damage might be.”

While the jets were “relatively solid,” the hangars themselves were “catastrophically damaged — roofs torn off, bricks, siding torn off of the hangars, debris everywhere,” Thomas said.

Much of the base is still without power or utilities, Thomas said. Cell phone service was returned recently.