The last of the F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall AFB when Hurricane Michael made landfall last month will be flown to another location by early next week, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters Thursday. In the days following the storm, Air Force leaders expressed optimism the aircraft did not sustain significant damage. Officials refused, however, to say exactly how many aircraft were left behind out of a total of 55 assigned to Tyndall. A letter Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) sent Secretary Heather Wilson urging the Air Force to request funding to repair the damaged F-22s indicated 17 were not evacuated. All but one of the F-22s will be housed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., for maintenance, with the remaining aircraft at Hill AFB, Utah, for maintenance, reported the Northwest Florida Daily News. … The Vermont Air National Guard is busy preparing for the arrival of 20 F-35A fighter jets at Burlington Air Guard Station, with just over $100 million in facility upgrades under contract, according to an update from Guard officials. Upgrades include an operations building, a maintenance hangar and mission simulators. The F-35s, which will replace the unit’s F-16 fleet, are scheduled to begin arriving in September 2019, reports MyChamplainValley.com. The change comes in the face of local opposition over concerns the fifth-generation combat aircraft will be too loud and pose a safety threat in a densely populated area. … The Federal Aviation Administration is restricting drone flights near Navy and Coast Guard vessels in the vicinity of Naval Base Kitsap, Wash., and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., in response to “concerns about potentially malicious drone operations over certain high-priority maritime operations,” according to a press release. The guidance requires drone operations to maintain a distance of at least 3,000 feet laterally and 1,000 feet vertically from the vessels. The bases house the Navy’s Ohio-class submarines, which can be armed with ballistic missiles, reports Military.com. In a separate notice to airmen, the FAA “strongly advises” drone operators to remain clear of DOD and Energy Department facilities and mobile assets across the country.
Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keifer Bowes