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MacDill AFB chosen for next-generation air refueling tankers

News conference at MacDill Air Force Base
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Congresswoman Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, speaks at a news conference next to Col. Ben Jonsson, Commander, 6th Air Refueling Wing

The base would be home to 24 KC-46A's, which would replace the base's current contingent of 24 KC-135's.

The U.S. Air Force has announced that Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base has been chosen as its preferred location for the next generation of air refueling tankers.

The base would be home to 24 KC-46A's, which would replace the base's current contingent of 24 KC-135's. Those planes were the Air Force's first jet-powered refueling tankers, and have been in service since the 1950's.

Col. Ben Jonsson is commander of the 6th Air Refueling Wing.

"This basing action and the KC-46A Pegasus coming to MacDill is representative of the committment to air refueling and air power," he said during a news conference at the base. "It's the lifeblood that enables us as a country to project air power anytime, anywhere around the world. It enables us to respond to crises and contingencies globally."

Refueling in the air
U.S. Air Force photo
An Air Force KC-46 Pegasus refuels a C-17A Globemaster III

Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor - who has campaigned for years for the new air tankers - said the new planes would be able to maintain the primary mission of MacDill for decades to come.

“I am thrilled that MacDill was chosen to be the new main operating base for 24 KC-46s Pegasus aircraft," Castor said. "The patriotic Tampa Bay community embraces the mission and the outstanding men and women who serve here. Tampa is 'tanker town,' and we are thrilled to upgrade our tankers and cement the air mobility mission at MacDill for decades to come.''

The KC-135 entered service with the United States Air Force in 1957. It was originally based on the same design as the Boeing 707. The KC-46A is based on the design of the Boeing 767.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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