The Air Force has chosen Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida as the site of a new MQ-9 Reaper Wing consisting of 1,600 new jobs and more than $250 million of military construction, according to a news release from the Bay Defense Alliance.

“The decision is part of an effort to diversify assignment opportunities from within the MQ-9 community, provide increased opportunities for leadership, and enhance integration with other organizations and capabilities,” officials wrote  

“This is a big win not only for Panama City, but for the entire state of Florida,” said Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). “The 1,400 airmen and their families that will soon be heading to the area will provide a tremendous boost to the local economy.”

Nelson was joined by Rep. Neal Dunn, (R-Panama City) in his support for the decision. 

“The Air Force’s decision is a wise one for our national defense, and it will bring a tremendous boost to our region,” Dr. Dunn said. “Tyndall is a perfect location for this new wing, and this community will welcome the new airmen and their families who come to live and work here with open arms.”

The Air Force uses its strategic basing process when making basing decisions. Each decision takes an “enterprise-wide look” as it evaluates potential basing locations. Tyndall AFB scored the highest among 50 bases that were part of this process. The Air Force then conducted site surveys of the top four bases including Eglin AFB in Florida, Shaw AFB in South Carolina, and Vandenberg AFB in California.

The results of the site surveys were presented to the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force who made the final decision. Now the Air Force will begin the environmental impact analysis process. A site activation task force from Air Combat Command will also begin making visits to Tyndall.  

“The MQ-9 wing is among the largest basing efforts the Air Force has executed since its strategic basing process began in 2009,” defense alliance officials wrote. “It will include: Wing headquarters, Mission control element, Launch and recovery capability, Operations Group and Maintenance Group.” 

“We selected Tyndall Air Force base because it was the best location to meet the unique requirements of the MQ-9 Reaper,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said. 

That includes fewer aircraft competing for
air space, nearby training ranges, great weather and lower up-front costs, Wilson added.

Tyndall AFB remains the preferred alternative for this basing action. The final basing decision will be made by the Secretary of the Air Force only after the environmental analysis is complete.

Based on current projections, Airmen are expected to begin arriving at the new location as early as 2020. The first aircraft are expected to arrive in 2022.