PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Community leaders are reacting after the news was announced on Monday that Tyndall Air Force Base will host three new squadrons of F-35 Lightning fighter jets.
The decision followed a 2018 proposal by the Air Force to base F-35s at Tyndall after extensive damage from Hurricane Michael prompted the base’s redesign, as the first “Base of the Future.”
“It’s a big deal for Panama City and it’s a big deal for Bay County,” said Panama City Mayor, Greg Brudnicki. “We’re just here to provide the quality of life for all those people and we are elated that they are coming.”
Bay Defense Alliance President Tom Neubauer said Tuesday that it’s an extremely exciting development for the community, bringing 72 F-35 fighter jets to Tyndall, along with the pilots and their families and hundreds of jobs.
“We’re going to have a major impact on our school system,” Neubauer said. “Certainly on every business in town and the future is really very bright for our community, certainly in the next four years with all the construction and then after that with these new next, fifth generation F-35s showing up at Tyndall.”
Neubauer said this decision paves the way for construction to really begin at the Base of the Future.
“This is probably one of the largest economic development decisions that was made for the state of Florida in a long time,” he said. “We’re going to see an amazing number of people, contractors for the next few years, building all these facilities.”
He added that thousands of jobs are coming with the F-35 squadrons, and more could be coming when a decision is made on the MQ-9 Reaper beddowns.
“We won’t have an answer on that probably for months,” Neubauer said. “We are looking forward to the possibility of 1800 additional jobs if Tyndall is selected as the preferred location for the MQ-9’s.”
The first F-35 squadron is expected to arrive at Tyndall AFB in fiscal year 2023.