TAMPA (FOX 13) - MacDill Air Force Base is about to get even busier. Eight additional KC-135 Stratotankers will move to the South Tampa base as early as this fall, and the first of 300 additional personnel to fly and service the planes have already begun to arrive.
Some of those aerial refueling tankers are 60 years old, but even America's newest warplanes depend on them. Monday, a tanker from MacDill refueled six high-tech F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base while cruising 24,000 feet above the Florida Panhandle.
This was a training mission, but the Tampa-based crews perform similar missions all over the world.
"There's only so far that those bombers and fighter aircraft can go without that tanker. That 60-year-old airplane is enabling our ability to fight the war around the world," explained Col. April Vogel, base commander.
The Air Force is building a new-generation tanker, the C-46, but the KC-135 is still the workhorse.
"These tankers are the ones that are going to bridge the gap to the next generation of tankers throughout the Air Force, so it’s good for MacDill because we are going to be in high demand as long as they are sitting on our ramp," Vogel continued. "I also strongly believe that in this location we have a great opportunity to be considered for some of the future aircraft."
When the additional planes arrive sometime after October, MacDill will have 24 KC-135's.