MacDill AFB chosen as 6th host location for KC-46 Pegasus tankers

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A U.S. Air Force KC-46A Pegasus jet takes off in view of a line of Boeing 777X jets parked nose to tail on an unused runway at Paine Field, near Boeing’s massive production facility, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Everett, Wash. the KC-46A jet is a Boeing 767-based refueling aircraft built at the Boeing production facility there. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — MacDill Air Force Base was chosen as the main operating base for the KC-46s Pegasus tanker aircraft. The base will support 24 of the tankers on-site as the host location.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-FL14, was at MacDill to announce the decision, joined by base personnel and community partners.

“I am thrilled that MacDill was chosen to be the new main operating base for 24 KC-46As Pegasus aircraft. 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,” said Castor.

Castor has led a campaign for MacDill to receive the host designation for years, beginning in 2012. With local community and business leaders, Castor met with the Pentagon to advocate for MacDill as “tanker town” according to a statement from the Congresswoman.

“MacDill Air Force Base is proud to be chosen to become the next preferred location to host the KC-46 Pegasus. The selection ensures that the 6th Air Refueling Wing will provide next generation aerial refueling support and AirPower for our nation’s defense for decades to come,” said Colonel Benjamin R. Jonsson, Commander, 6th Air Refueling Wing, MacDill Air Force Base.

Castor called the 6th Air Refueling wing central to the U.S. military’s aircraft logistics. Bringing the tankers to MacDill will continue the air refueling mission’s 25 years of “exemplary service,” with the base’s fleet of KC-135 tankers “around since President Eisenhower was president,” Castor said. “These tanker jets have been flying since the late 50s, since the 60s, it’s a real testament to the talent and expertise of the maintainers here at MacDill and across the country who have kept the KC-135s flying.”

Still, Castor said the 135s had reached the end of their lives and it was time to upgrade. With that in mind, enter the Pegasus. The congresswoman also said that MacDill was part of the backbone of our national security. She said MacDill was in competition for the selection, including against Fairchild Airforce Base in Washington state.

“We will be a main operating base for 24 of those new modern tanker aircraft,” Castor said. “Along with that we will be able to maintain the missions of MacDill Airforce Base for decades to come. We will continue to have amongst us the bravest and finest that serve in the United States Airforce. The folks that maintain these modern, beautiful tankers. The pilots, all of the support folks who come with it, all of the civilians who support the missions here at the base.”

The 24 KC-46A Pegasus aircraft will replace the current 24 KC-135s that are at the base. The statement from Castor said MacDill was selected based on “factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support, environmental considerations and cost.” The tankers are used for mid-air refueling for U.S. fighter jets, and other military craft.

At the event, local businesses were represented by the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, underscoring the investment and community support for MacDill to be chosen for the operating base. Castor said it was thanks to community and local partners that MacDill was selected.

“On behalf of the MacDill Means Mobility Task Force, we are thrilled that the Air Force has chosen MacDill Air Force Base to host the KC-46. Tampa Bay and Florida’s unrivalled support for military servicemembers, their families, and our veteran community makes MacDill the perfect home for this new squadron. With a premier location for global power projection and global reach, MacDill is ready for the KC-46,” said Kelly Flannery, President & CEO, South Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Later in the day, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis praised the choice of MacDill for the tanker operation.

“Today’s decision by the Air Force further solidifies Florida as the most military-friendly state in the country,” said DeSantis. “I look forward to seeing the job growth and economic impact these state-of-the-art aircraft will bring to the Tampa area.” 

In terms of process, the tanker craft won’t be on base for a couple of years, but next steps include an environmental impact assessment to be completed by the fall of 2023. After that, the Air Force is expected to confirm the decision for MacDill to become the sixth KC-46 Main Operating Base, according to Castor.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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