More refueling tankers may be coming to Macdill Air Force Base - WFLA News Channel 8

More refueling tankers may be coming to Macdill Air Force Base

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - Budget cuts in defense spending may have a profound impact on U.S. military bases across the country.

The U.S. Air Force has announced plans to cut back up to 500 air craft as the budget cuts take effect.

While many bases see sharp cutbacks, Macdill Air Force base may see an increase in the number of aircraft at their air field.

Macdill is the home of the 6-th Air Mobility Wing.  The wing is the home of 16 KC-135 Stratotankers.  Under cuts announced by the Air force and ensuing base realignment, Macdill is scheduled to gain 8 additional KC-135 Aircraft.

Tuesday, media outlets from around the Bay area were given the opportunity to fly on a KC-135 for a refueling training mission.

The training missions are run to keep the crew of the KC-135 proficient at their jobs and to provide proficiency training for aircraft receiving fuel.

The KC-135 acts as a flying gas station, refueling aircraft in midair.

It's a virtual midair ballet as the aircraft approach the Stratotanker for fuel.  Master Sergeant Nancy Primm operates a boom on board the KC-135 to provide fuel to waiting aircraft.

"It's kind of a cliche, but it's appropriate. The ballet in flight where all of the coordination, all of the checklists are run, the communication, getting close to contact. I'm talking to them, they're talking to me and then we do the air refueling," said Primm.

On this training mission, a flight of A-10 aircraft line up for fuel.

While the KC-135 were first built and flew in the late 1950's, they are scheduled to keep flying for many years to come.  The A-10 is not.

Among the cuts announced by the U.S. Air Force, will be the total elimination of the A-10 fleet.  The A-10 is heavily armored and designed to fly low and slow to attack targets on the ground.

Partly due to their mission and partly due to their odd appearance and the nickname, "Warthog", the aircraft have been very popular with U.S. ground troops.

It's not the first time the A-10 fleet has been on the chopping block.

The aircraft were scheduled for cuts, then the Gulf War came along and military commanders demanded that the platform stay.  However, the A-10 is once again on the chopping block as the U.S. has ended combat operations in Iraq and is drawing down it's force in Afghanistan.

On the training mission, the A-10's fly so close the KC-135, the pilot of the Stratotanker can physically feel their presence.

"Oh yea, I mean, we're touching them, we're giving them the gas," said Captain Joe Brzozowske, the co-pilot of this training mission.

Msgt. Nancy Primm says during refueling missions, pilots of the receiving aircraft can appear tense.

"Where that becomes a lot more critical is if we are deployed, we are downrange and we are trying to give gas to a guy that's got to lay some lead down to protect our guys on the ground, they're human, they're going to be amped up, they want to make sure they get it right," said Primm.

She deals with the tension by speaking to the other pilots in a calm voice.

"If I can just talk to them in soothing tones clear em to contact and not be all kind of hyped up, that helps, I find that helps a lot," said Primm.

The A-10 may soon be flying off into history, but as long as they are in the air, and need fuel, the KC-135 will be there to bring fuel to the fight.

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