U.S. Air Force chooses Tyndall AFB for new remotely piloted aircraft unit

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. The U.S. Air Force has selected Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida, as the preferred location to house the new MQ-9 Reaper Wing, which will consist of 24 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).

The new RPA wing will comprise an operations group with mission-control elements, a launch and recovery capability, and a maintenance group.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said that Tyndall AFB enables the new RPA unit to operate with fewer aircraft competing for air space, encompasses nearby training ranges, has great weather, and carries lower up-front costs.

This selection, according to Air Force officials, will also meet the goals of Air Combat Command's Culture and Process Improvement Plan, which had previously identified the need for additional basing locations to help diversify assignment opportunities for personnel within the MQ-9 enterprise, provide increased opportunities for leadership from within the community, and provide flexibility to enhance integration with other warfighter organizations and capabilities.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said of the Tyndall selection: "Remotely piloted aircraft and the intelligence capabilities supporting them remain vital to our national security and the security of our allies. Equally important is the increasing use of RPAs in defense of the homeland and response to humanitarian disaster as we have seen recently with hurricanes and wildfires. Co-locating this wing with [U.S. Northern Command’s] Air Operations Center and 1st Air Force will bring increased capability to support Gen. Lori Robinson [commander of the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)] in addition to increasing lethality and giving our other combatant commanders the best trained operators possible."

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

An MQ-9 Reaper, armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, piloted by Col. Lex Turner, flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo / Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)