U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent traveled to Scott Air Force Base yesterday and made the case for jobs and economic development tied to the next generation of refueling tankers at MacDill Air Force Base and the community-wide MacDill Means Mobility campaign. Air Mobility Command, which is in charge of air refueling missions and tankers for the U.S. Air Force, is based at Scott. Scott also provides global oversight of the air refueling wing at MacDill and commands the global aeromedical evacuation mission and cargo mission.
Castor and Nugent learned from Air Force General Raymond Johns, Commander of U.S. Air Mobility Command, that the U.S. Air Force intends to announce the leading candidate bases for the new KC-46 tanker jets next month, and a final decision is expected by early next year.
"We went to advocate for jobs and the economic opportunities tied to the missions at MacDill Air Force Base," Castor said. "MacDill Air Force Base and our community remain well-situated for economic expansion whether it's under a long-term continuation of the KC-135 tankers or new KC-46."
Castor and Nugent attended briefings on Air Mobility Command, tanker airlift control and KC-46 tankers.
"The Air Force will rely on hundreds of existing KC-135s, including those based at MacDill, as a vital part of the air mobility fleet for decades, but MacDill is still positioned to compete well for the new tankers over the coming decade," Castor said.
They also learned more about Air Mobility Command's aeromedical evacuation support mission and the associated jobs. Partnerships with the University of South Florida and the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation were discussed, and this could result in medical and flight simulator jobs in Tampa and across the entire I-4/ high-tech corridor.
Castor and Nugent talked to Air Mobility Command officials about the Tampa community's support for the new tankers being sited at MacDill. They also emphasized that MacDill is a strong candidate because MacDill fits the mission, has the capacity and has few encroachment issues.
Castor, Nugent and Rep. Dennis Ross, along with other members of the Tampa Bay area congressional delegation, community leaders and business leaders, kicked off an effort in June called MacDill Means Mobility to promote the importance of MacDill Air Force Base to federal officials in the hopes of having new KC-46 refueling tankers assigned to the base. Bases will be evaluated in terms of mission, capacity, and environment, among other factors.
The KC-46 is the U.S. Air Force's primary recapitalization priority. MacDill is home to many KC-135 refueling Stratotankers. Congress has authorized the replacement of these tankers.
MacDill is one of the largest employers in the Tampa Bay area and has a nearly $3 billion annual impact on the economy. "I can't think of a better way to spend my 46th birthday than to advocate for jobs and economic opportunities for my hometown," Castor said.