Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
If you like planes and flying things, spend a few hours at the Air Force Armament Museum (AFAM) and learn why munitions development at Eglin Air Force Base is considered key to America’s National Security.
Just seven miles north of the white sand beaches of Destin and Fort Walton Beach is a place of high flying adventure. Long before you enter
the 28,000 square-foot facility, you can see why AFAM attracts 130,000 visitors a year. Situated in the middle of 18 acres, the building is surrounded by vintage air force aircraft, missiles, spy planes, and World War II bombers. Each plane is accompanied by a plaque that tells the plane’s history and most important missions from World War II through the Gulf War.
The Air Force Armament Museum houses a total of 29 planes, 25 of them outside, and 1400 historical artifacts and pieces of memorabilia. Some of the aircraft on display outside include a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-52 bomber, an A-10 Thunderbolt, an F-16 Flying Falcon, a MOAB Missile, and an SR 71 Blackbird, dubbed the fastest plane ever built.
Inside exhibits are on two levels, with an open floor plan below and an upper balcony and walkway with wall displays. Here you’ll find an exhibit of the WWII Doolittle Raiders. Under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, the squadron, which consisted of 16, B-25 bombers and 80 aircrew, all trained at Elgin Air Force Base for the 1942 offensive on Japan in retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack.
Also on the upper level you’ll find the Medal of Honor Wall, the Shipman Model Airplane Collection, and an exhibit with videos about the 33rd and 53rd Fighter Wings. There are also exhibits honoring those who fought in WWI through the Vietnam War, and a display honoring the Wright Brothers and their contributions to manned flight.
On the main floor are four fighter aircraft, a P-47 Thunderbird, a P-51 Mustang, an F-105 Thunderchief, and an F-80 Shooting Star, the first air force aircraft to exceed 500 mph in level flight. Here too you’ll find an exhibit for Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and one honoring the Air Commandos and Air Force Special Operations Command, where you can watch a video while seated in a C-130 jump seat.
A gun vault on the west side of the building houses aircraft weapons that include a GAU-8 30mm Gatlin Gun and a 40mm Bofors Light Anti-Aircraft Gun, along with other weaponry. On the east side of the building you can enter a complete, portable Airborne Battlefield Command Control Center.
Several exhibits honor those who have served, including a POW Memorial and a Purple Heart Memorial. The Afghanistan/Iraq Memorial Portrait Mural, the first of its kind anywhere in the United States honors Florida comrades in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines who lost their lives in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
Eglin Air Force Base began in 1935 as the Army Air Corps Bombing and Gunnery Range. It was renamed Eglin Field in 1937 with a dual mission; to provide bombing and gunnery training for new pilots, and to test Army Air Corps aircraft and armament, particularly air delivered munitions.
The Air Force Armament Museum first opened in 1974 to support Eglin’s mission. It was the first Air Force Field Museum in the country, but in 1981, it was forced to close when the building housing the collection was condemned. The current 28,000 square-foot facility opened in 1985 and has since added an additional 8000 square-foot building for restoration and storage. The Air Force recognizes AFAM as being "Core to the Mission" of educating the public and promoting the importance of Eglin Air Force Base to America's national security.
The museum is hands-on and interactive with several video monitors, a theater with a half hour film, “Arming the Air force,” and a stationary flight trainer that kids (and grownups) can climb into.
Future plans include a $1.6m state of the art Education Center to be built adjacent to the current museum. The center will serve Eglin Air Force Base, the local community and the innovative and growing Engineers for America Program (EFA), which is a joint program with Okaloosa County School District. EFA promotes Science-Technology-Engineering- Mathematics for elementary and middle school students.
The Air Force Armament Museum hosts military-related special events throughout the year, including retirement and Change of Command ceremonies. Visitors to the museum can see these events first hand as they often happen during museum hours in an events section on the main exhibit floor. There are over 280 events per year, so you’re sure to see at least one official ceremony while you’re there.
Like the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, the Air Force Armament Museum is a free museum, and is open to the public six days per week, however donations are happily accepted. Just drop yours into the large pot in the main entry.
A small gift shop is located on the ground floor as you exit and is filled with patches, airplane models, hats, t-shirts, and posters, so you’re sure to find something to take home to remind you of your visit.
AFAM is one of seven outstanding Okaloosa County museums you can visit that include the Destin History and Fishing Museum, the Heritage Park & Cultural Center and the Emerald Coast Science Center both in Fort Walton Beach, the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida in Valparaiso, the Baker-Block Museum in Baker, and the Carver-Hill Museum in Crestview.
100 Museum Drive
Eglin AFB, FL 32542
Hours of Operation:
9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Closed Sundays and Holidays
Free (donations happily accepted)
From Fort Walton Beach, take State Road 85 north to Eglin Air Force Base. Just before you reach State Road 189, turn right onto Museum Drive.