The F-22 fighter jets that remained behind when Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida were not as badly damaged as originally feared, the Air Force Times reported on Monday.
The Air Force’s top leaders said, however, that more inspections of the advanced fighters still need to be done before it is known for certain if each plane can be repaired and returned to service.
Officials touring the facility in the aftermath of the storm said they “looked into each of the hangars that housed aircraft which weathered the storm… Visually, they were all intact and looked much better than expected considering the surrounding damage to some structures.”
They added that “maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies. However, damage was less than we feared and preliminary indications are promising.”
The fifth-generation F-22 cost about $143 million per plane, although the price is as high as $350 million when costs for the entire program, including research and development, are factored in, according to the Washington Examiner.
Standard procedure is for all such jets to fly to safe areas ahead of such a major storm, but not all were able to be evacuated because sophisticated aircraft such as the F-22 must spend large amounts of time in hangars being maintained and repaired, news.com.au reported.
Officials also said it remains unclear when personnel and their families evacuated from Tyndall will be able to return due to the current unsafe condition of housing on the base, the Air Force Times reported.