Tampa Leaders Look to Expand Tanker Mission at MacDill AFB

Tampa leaders are working to bring KC-135 Stratotankers displaced from installations that receive the Air Force’s next generation aerial tanker to MacDill Air Force Base in an effort to demonstrate the base has the capacity to handle more aircraft.

MacDill, which currently has 16 KC-135s, was passed over in 2013 to become one of the first bases to receive the KC-46A Pegasus. That competition would have brought 36 jets to MacDill, and local officials want to show that the base can support a greater number of aircraft, reported the Tampa Tribune.

With MacDill already slated to receive eight additional tankers starting in 2017, base supporters are pushing to obtain 12 more. They are targeting the four bases in the running to host the first Reserve-led KC-46A unit — Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.; Seymour-Johnson AFB, N.C.; Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass.; and Grissom ARB, Ind. Additional KC-135s should become available from the installations that receive the newer aircraft.

“When these bases get the KC-46, we want the KC-135s to continue to come here,” said Chip Diehl, a former MacDill base commander who now serves as vice president of the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance.

Air Force officials, however, say no decision have yet been made about relocating the Eisenhower-era tankers.

The area’s congressional delegation is spearheading the effort to show that MacDill has the operational and logistical capacity to accommodate more aircraft.

“Our ‘MacDill Means Mobility’ campaign will not stop there and will advocate for KC-46s to be assigned to MacDill in future years,” said a spokeswoman for Rep. Kathy Castor (D).

Dan Cohen
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