(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Derek Seifert)

The F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets left behind at Tyndall Air Base when Hurricane Michael damaged or destroyed virtually every building on site will be visited by structural engineers from Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor tweeted.

Tyndall Air Base serves as a critical training and maintenance ground for about 50 F-22s, or nearly a third of all of the world's most capable air superiority jets near Panama City, Florida, Dallas News, who first reported the story, said.

Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall with unexpected force and sooner than expected, and the Air Force left some of the jets, which cost in the hundreds of millions apiece, behind in the base's most hardened hangars.


But the storm proved historically powerful, and images of the aftermath show the hangars torn open. Initial assessments said that up to 17 of the planes had been destroyed, but top US Air Force officials later visited the base and said the damage wasn't as bad as first thought.

F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., taxi after landing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio for safe haven.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)

While the Air Force still won't share how many F-22s were left behind, or how bad they were damaged by the storm, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sounded hopeful on Oct. 16, 2018.

"I'm not ready to say it can all be fixed, but our initial review was perhaps more positive than I anticipated ... in light of the amount of damage," Mattis said, as the Air Force Times notes.

The Air Force did manage to relocate a number of air-worthy F-22s before the storm, and they've returned to training stealth pilots in the world's most capable combat plane. The limited run of F-22s, their stealth shaping and coating, and rare parts make repairing them a costly endeavor.

But with Tyndall all but wiped off the map by Michael, it remains unclear when the US's top fighter jet will get back on track.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.