MacDill jets keep the US military flying with help of new technology

Posted at 7:02 PM, Aug 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-21 19:02:04-04

It's a routine training mission for pilots and crew of the KC-135s based at MacDill Air Force Base. The large aircraft refuels nearly every fixed wing plane in the United States military. 

Today, at 24,000 feet in the air, one KC-135 topped off six F-22 fighter jets while traveling more than 350 miles per hour. The fighters got to within 40 feet of the KC-135 to get fuel while training over the Gulf near the Florida panhandle. Today, ABC Action News was invited along for the ride.

"That 60-year-old airplane is enabling our ability to fight the war around the world. You can't go anywhere without them," Commanding Officer, Col. April Vogel, said.

16 KC-135 aircrafts call MacDill home. The base is getting 8 more soon. Col. Vogel says MacDill has aircrafts and crews deployed across the world, in the middle east and in Guam. Guam was recently threatened with an attack by North Korea.

"Certainly it's on everybody's mind. So for us, especially at my level, I just want to make sure that my folks are prepared for wherever we're called," Col. Vogel said.

Col. Vogel says fueling from the sky is pretty much the same no matter where it's being done.

"We just want to stay ready and prepared to execute wherever our leadership sends us," she said.

Crews from MacDill typically train with the fighter jets based at Tyndall Air Force Base weekly.