Bracing for Irma, USAF Evacuates Aircraft and Airmen

More than 100 airmen and aircraft are evacuating before the Catagory 5 Hurricane Irma makes landfall. Just over 25 years ago another Catagory 5 hurricane nearly wiped out Homestead AFB, Fla. USAF photo by MSgt. James Ferguson via National Archives/satellite photo from NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

The Air Force continues to evacuate airmen and aircraft as the Catagory 5 Hurricane Irma barrels toward Florida.

More than 100 personnel and 50 F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, S.C., will relocate to Barksdale AFB, La.; 11 KC-135 Stratotankers from the 6th Air Mobility Wing and 927th Air Refueling Wing will evacuate from MacDill AFB, Fla.; 13 F-15 Eagles will relocate from Jacksonville International Airport in Florida; and 21 A-10 Warthogs and two A-29 Super Tucanos from the 23rd Wing at Moody AFB, Ga., will be evacuated. On Wednesday, Muniz ANGB, Puerto Rico, Homestead AFB, Fla., and Patrick AFB, Fla., all relocated aircraft out of the storm’s path.

An eight-man team from the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Travis AFB, Calif., has deployed to St. Thomas to “evaluate the airfield and determine what will be required to prepare it to receive aircraft supporting relief missions,” according to an Air Force statement. And, JB Charleston, S.C., will serve as an intermediate staging base for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Above is a Sept. 7 satellite photo from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center showing Irma as it approaches Cuba. Just over 25 years ago, Hurricane Andrew, also a Category 5 storm, struck South Florida, obliterating the region and leveling Homestead. Learn more about how Hurricane Andrew nearly wiped out Homestead in Air Force Magazine’s August issue.