TAMPA, Fla. — Pretty soon those KC-135 military aircraft you see flying over the Tampa Bay area will be replaced with newer, next-generation refuelers.
The Tampa Bay area has been home to Air Force missions since World War II. In fact, many of the nation’s aerial refueling tankers are based here. They are called the KC-135 and they have been around for quite some time now, but it turns out, pretty soon you may not be seeing those planes flying overhead.
The KC-135s have been around since President Eisenhower was President during the 1950s. “That’s a long time,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (D) Florida. It takes a lot to keep these old, modern marvels up in the air to perform complicated military operations in some of the world’s most hostile airspaces. “And it’s a real testament to the talent and expertise of the maintainers here at MacDill and across the country,” said Rep. Castor.
MacDill was chosen to receive 24 KC-46 Pegasus aircraft. They are the next-generation aerial refuelers and to the average person, they may not look any different because of their distinct gray military color but they are. These new planes can do longer missions and carry more fuel.
“It could refuel another KC-46. Replenish that fuel then that turns around and gives it to bombers or fighters or reconnaissance aircraft,” said Col. Ben Jonsson, Commander of MacDill Air Force Base.
They also have better technology with increased defensive capabilities. “So, operating in a contested environment against increasingly capable adversaries, it gives us more capability to operate further in and closer in and it gives us more battlespace awareness with those defensive capabilities,” said Col. Jonsson.