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Air Force moving F-22 Raptor training squadron to Langley AFB, bringing with it, millions of dollars

The squadron used to be located at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida, before Hurricane Michael heavily damaged the base in October 2018.

HAMPTON, Va. — It appears that Florida's loss will be Hampton Roads' gain.

The Air Force is permanently moving its F-22 fighter jet training operation from Florida to Virginia, officials said Friday.

The F-22 training squadron will be based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton.

The squadron originally was located at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida, before Hurricane Michael heavily damaged the base in October 2018. It has been temporarily located at Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County, Florida.

The unit has 31 F-22 fighters and 16 T-38 training aircraft.

According to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office, the move will bring around 700 skilled military, contractor, and civilian personnel to the region, along with about 1,600 dependents with them.

Bruce Sturk, Hampton's director of federal facilities support, estimates the squadron's move will bring a total of 2,100 to 2,200 people to the region.

Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance Executive Director Craig Quigley says this is a huge win for the area.

"They'll be renting apartments," he said. "They'll be buying homes. They'll be buying pizzas. A tremendous positive effect on our economy."

Quigley added: "And I've got student pilots and student maintainers, a never-ending conveyor belt of people coming through this region. Temporarily, mind you, but, they will be spending money in the retail establishments, restaurants, recreational activities. And that never stops. So this is good news no matter how you look at it."

Tidewater Community College Professor of Business Management and Administration Peter Shaw crunched the numbers. 

Calculating the Air Force's pay scales for the lowest ranking enlisted member, through the highest ranking officer, Shaw estimates the new troops will inject roughly $18  to $20 million in additional payroll to the Hampton Roads region.

"You're talking tens of millions of dollars in payroll, tens of millions of dollars in economic impact that's now going t be transferred to Hampton and to the surrounding community," said Shaw. "Absolutely wonderful news, and a wonderful pickup for Hampton and the Peninsula."

 Virginia Senator Mark Warner tweeted Monday that "Hampton Roads is the ideal location to house the F-22 training squadron."

The Air Force has said the arrival of the training unit would more than double the annual number of F-22 flights from Langley's airfield, from over 22,000 to nearly 50,000.