TYNDALL — At the crack of dawn the drones were launched, the force from which rumbled in the chests of those on site.


The Wednesday display was part of Tyndall Air Force Base’s ongoing Checkered Flag exercise this week — back at the facility for the first time since before Hurricane Michael hit Bay County more than a year ago.


The exercise is also involved with Combat Archer, the designated name for the U.S. Air Force’s air-to-air Weapon’s System Evaluation Program. The program is under the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron.


Checkered Flag 19-1 was scheduled to be at Tyndall last year until the hurricane hit, devastating the base.


"By far this is the best venue for this exercise," said Lt. Col. Benjamin Orsua of the 43rd Fighter Squadron. "Based off the dual runways, based off the airspace and we don’t have a lot of airline traffic."


Checkered Flag is one of the largest fighter jet exercises in the world that involves more than 50 aircraft. Tyndall is one of the few bases in the U.S. that can support such a large air combat training exercise


The Wednesday exercise started with six drones lined up a few miles down U.S. 98 from the flight line. A 10-second countdown is given, then each drone was launched and a bottled missile was deployed from the drone into the Gulf of Mexico.


The fighter jets track down the drones and shoot them down into the water.


There are drones that are different in structure and have different responsibilities. Some drones are used to test heat seeking missiles of the fighter jets.


Each drone is crafted to be ideal for the weather conditions of the day they are launched. The weather has to be as accurate as possible or the launch won’t happen.


Once the exercise was over, they used boats to retrieve the drones and assess if it can be rebuilt. It takes about a month to rebuild the drones. If the drone is too damaged, they’re usually scrapped.


The weather conditions of the drone launch were a concern because of how windy it was Wednesday morning.


Ultimately the exercise is conducted to test the capabilities of the aviators and the maintainers. It is to make sure they are prepared in case of a threat.


The base had to make a dramatic shift for the increased activity for Checkered Flag.


"With the focus on trying to rebuild for the new F-35 mission, it’s been relatively quiet with activity on the airfield," Orsua said. "With Checkered Flag being one of the largest fighter exercise on the globe, it’s a pretty big shift from rebuild phase back to training."