BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) – In 2017, the defense department selected Tyndall Air Force Base to host an MQ-9 reaper wing, but those plans are now on hold.
The U.S. Air Force has decided to start winding down the MQ-9 reaper unmanned aircraft program.
Bay Defense Alliance President Tom Neubauer believes the Air Force has good reason to do so.
“What we do know though is that the Air Force is making decisions based on the national defense strategy and they will make decisions that are best for the Air Force and best for the nation,” Neubauer said. “And if that includes changing the RPA platform to something of higher technology, that’s good for the Air Force and that’s good for our community.”
The remotely piloted MQ-9 has been gathering intelligence and killing terrorists in airstrikes across the globe for the last 20 years.
But some in the defense department believe the reaper will no longer be effective against new air defense technology developed by countries like Russia and China.
So the Air Force is exploring newer, more advanced options.
“The Air Force decided to take another look at all the emerging technologies that affect these RPA platforms,” Neubauer said. “And there are so many new technologies out there that they decided it might be best to not create another base, another wing, and pursue these additional technologies.”
The MQ-9 mission may ultimately be replaced by the next generation remotely piloted aircraft and RPAs capable of providing adversary air support for Tyndall’s 5th generation combat fighter pilots.
Neubauer said there is a decent chance that Tyndall would be viewed as an ideal location to host the next generation RPA.
“We hope that we will be in a position as a community and as a military installation to compete for that new platform,” Neubauer said. “We do know that we will have the opportunity to pursue that at some point. We don’t know really what the next generation of remotely piloted aircraft will look like or whether Tyndall will be included in that but Tyndall is being built as the base of the future.”
Neubauer said it could be five years or more before we see some tangible evidence of a new program coming to Tyndall.
The three F-35 squadrons coming to Tyndall are still on schedule, with the first F-35 lightning will be here in the fall of 2023.