Tyndall Air Force Base
Tyndall Air Force Base (1941-Active) - A United States Air Force Base first established in 1941 as Tyndall Field near Panama City, Bay County, Florida. Named for World War I pilot 1st Lt Frank B. Tyndall on 13 Jun 1941. Renamed Tyndall Air Force Base on 13 January 1948. Tyndall is an active Air Force Base.
Pre World War II
In December 1940, a site selection board determined that Flexible Gunnery School No. 9 would be located 12 miles southeast of Panama City, Florida on the East Peninsula. On 6 May 1941, the U.S. Army held an official groundbreaking for the school. On 13 Jun 1941, the War Department officially named the new installation Tyndall Field.
On 7 Dec 1941, the first of 2,000 troops arrived at Tyndall Field. Construction was still incomplete but instructors and students prepared for the first class. The first class of 40 gunnery students began on 23 Feb 1942. Of the thousands of students passing through the Tyndall gates, the most famous was actor Clark Gable, a student there during 1943.
Tyndall began foreign student training in 1943 with French Air Force gunnery students and later Chinese students. The last class of foreign students was Chinese Nationals who entered training in 1946.
At the end of the war in 1945, Tyndall was listed as having a capacity to house 6, 254 enlisted personnel and 839 officers on 32,188 acres of land. The cost to the government was shown as $15,884,518 for land and construction on the base.
Post World War II
When World War II ended, Tyndall went through the demobilization process. The base fell under the Tactical Air Command in 1946. This only lasted three months, Tyndall then became part of the Air University.
In September of 1950, Tyndall became an Air Training Command base. Several schools were assigned, including Weapons Controllers, USAF Air Police, and USAF Instrument Instructor Pilot.
On 14 Jan 1951, ATC began aircrew (interceptor) training at Tyndall using F-86, F-89, and F-94 aircraft.
On 1 Jul 1957, Tyndall became part of the Air Defense Command, and that same year the Tyndall Air Force Base Radar Site became operational first as a manual Ground Control and Intercept (GCI) site and then as technology evolved, it became a SAGE System radar site and later a BUIC System radar site. The site also supported Tyndall interceptor crew training, weapons controller training, and the testing of the air-breathing BOMARC System interceptor missiles systems. The Tyndall USAF radar site closed on 1 Mar 1983 and part of it was handed over to the FAA who continued to provide radar inputs to USAF systems. See a separate page for the Tyndall Air Force Base Radar Site.
Tyndall began hosting the William Tell USAF Air-to-Air Weapons Meet in 1958, just one year after becoming an Air Defense Command unit. The William Tell USAF Air-to-Air Weapons Meet was held bi-annually between 1954 and 2004.
Tyndall's second association with the Tactical Air Command began on 1 Oct 1979. A major reorganization occurred on 1 Jul 1981, with the activation of the 325th Fighter Weapons Wing.
The Air Force Engineering and Services Center was formed at Tyndall as a part of a major reorganization. In 1991, it was renamed the Air Force Civil Engineering Agency.
The 23rd Air Division was renamed the Southeast Air Defense Sector and relocated to Tyndall in 1987. The Southeast Air Defense Sector operated the SEADS Sector Operations Control Center (SOCC) on Tyndall which had responsibility for the air defense of the southeastern United States until it closed in 2006.
On 1 Oct 1990, The four remaining USAF Air Defense Sectors were transferred to the Air National Guard. They were operationally gained by the First Air Force of the Tactical Air Command.
On 12 Sep 1991, Headquarters, 1st Air Force moved from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, to Tyndall, and the 325th Fighter Wing became the installation host.
On 1 Jul 1993, the base was transferred from Air Combat Command to the Air Education and Training Command. The 325th Fighter Wing remained the sole F-15 air superiority training wing until October 2010. The 337th Air Control Squadron is an air battle manager training unit in the United States Air Force for the E-3 AWACS or E-8 Joint STARS aircraft.
Tyndall AFB was selected as the center for training the Air Force's newest F-22 Raptor and received its first aircraft in 2004. Training of F-15 pilots began a gradual phase-out.
On 1 Jun 2007, 1st Air Force opened its 37,000 sq foot, $30 million Air Operations Center (AOC) with a $3 million media wall.
Circa 2017, the entire complex of facilities that supported the training of operators and weapons system controllers that was originally a part of the old USAF radar site was razed. The only remaining buildings are those located in the small FAA compound and none of these were original to the original USAF Radar site.
On 10 Oct 2018 Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle and devastated Tyndall Air Force Base (see below).
Hurricane Michael was the first Category 5 hurricane on record to impact the Florida Panhandle. It made landfall near Mexico Beach on 10 Oct 2018. The town of Mexico Beach is just a few miles east of Tyndall. The Tyndall AFB Commander had ordered the evacuation of all non-mission essential military and civilian personnel leaving some ninety-three Air Force personnel on the base to ride out the storm. Operational aircraft at Tyndall were evacuated but non-operational aircraft were secured in hangers. As a part of the evacuation, 1st Air Force and the 601st Air Operations Center transferred to an alternate operations floor at Joint Base Langley-Eustis at 9:27 p.m. on 9 Oct 2018, ahead of Hurricane Michael. This was done to ensure that the Operation Noble Eagle mission continued uninterrupted and that the warning and control for NORAD Defensive Counter Air activities were maintained.
The storm struck the area between Tyndall and Mexico beach with a peak estimated wind speed of 172 mph and a landfall pressure of 919 mbar. Air Force officials described the damage done to Tyndall as "catastrophic," with all of the base's facilities being declared "unlivable". The FAA Radar site on the base had the radome, the rotating antenna, and its pedestal was blown off the tower. The FAA deployed a repair team and had the site operational after just 37 days. The 1st Air Force and the 601st Air Operations Center returned to Tyndall after 72 days of operating from the alternate location.
Two years after the hurricane, the demolition and cleanup of the base were completed and the reconstruction began.
Estimates of the total recovery time range from 5 to 8 years, with three squadrons of F-35s and one squadron of MQ-9s expected at the base in October 2023. Published reports in May 2021 indicate that the rebuild project cost was estimated to be $4.9 billion and that they still have to build some 140 temporary facilities in the next year (2022-2023) to be ready for the first aircraft to arrive in September 2023. The article indicated that construction would peak in 2024.
In September 2019, USAF awarded its first two military construction contracts to begin rebuilding Tyndall, including $11.8 million to construct a fire station and $17.6 million for an air battle manager simulator building.
On 25 Jun 2021, the USACE awarded a $91.5 million contract to B.L. Harbert International to construct a new lodging facility at Tyndall Air Force Base. The five-story lodging facility will offer 360 guest rooms, including 18 business suites, and services to include a restaurant, business center, training rooms, fitness area, guest laundry, a lobby, and administrative services. The 221,261 sq. ft. facility will be built to withstand 170 mph hurricane-force winds. This project is the second of 40 new Military Construction projects and 260 Facility Sustainment Restoration and Modernization projects slated for the base. Construction for this project is anticipated to reach completion in April 2024. This project is slated to be built adjacent to the flight line and not across U.S. Highway 98 on the support side of the base where the BX and commissary are now located.
Visited: 2 Oct 2021