MacDill Air Force Base

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MacDill Air Force Base (1939-Active) - A United States Air Force (USAF) Base first established in 1939 as Southeast Air Base, Tampa at Tampa in Hillsborough County, Florida. Renamed MacDill Field after Colonel Leslie MacDill a U.S. Army aviation pioneer and World War I veteran who died in 1938. MacDill Field was renamed MacDill Air Force Base in 1948. Active USAF Base.

KC-135R-BN Stratotanker taking off at MacDill Air Force Base 29 May 2013.
MacDill AFB Name Chronology
Name From To
Southeast Air Base, Tampa 24 May 1939 1 Dec 1939
MacDill Field 16 Apr 1941 13 January 1948
MacDill Air Force Base 13 January 1948 Active

Pre World War II

(Text adapted from USAF Fact Sheet)

In 1939, the War Department selected Tampa, Florida to receive one of several new military airfields and Hillsborough County leaders made arrangements to transfer the land. MacDill Field was officially activated on 16 Apr 1941

World War II

The mission of the base during World War II was to train aircrews to fly and operate bomber aircraft, including the B-17 “Flying Fortress” and the B-26 “Marauder.” Between 1942 and 1945, thousands of airmen were trained as bomber pilots or crew members and then quickly moved on to other military assignments, eventually destined for the European Theater. With the end of hostilities in Europe, MacDill began to train crews for the new B-29 “Superfortress” in January 1945. That training lasted through 1953.

MacDill Air Force Base Master Plan 1952

MacDill Air Force Base Radar Site (1954-1980)

Air Defense Command (ADC) had established a mobile long-range radar site on MacDill by 1 Aug 1954 manned by the 660th AC&W Squadron. This long-range radar site is connected to the manual radar network and later integrated into the semi-automatic SAGE system. The site remained active until 15 Nov 1980 when coverage was assumed by the new Fort Lonesome FAA joint-use radar site. See a separate page for details MacDill Air Force Base Radar Site.

Cold War

In 1963, the bombers gave way to the fighters when MacDill became a Tactical Air Command training base. Throughout the Vietnam War and until the first Gulf War in 1991, Tampa became a home for the F-4 “Phantoms” and later the F-16 “Fighting Falcons.” Between 1979 and 1993 approximately half of all F-16 pilots trained at MacDill. In 1991, the era of the fighters at MacDill began to close.

1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRACC)

The 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission required MacDill to cease all flying operations by 1993. The action involved transferring more than 100 F-16 fighters to Luke AFB, Arizona. When the last F-16s left the base in 1994, MacDill had no aircraft for the first time in its history.

Also in 1994, MacDill became home to the 6th Air Base Wing. This wing was new to MacDill and served as the host for all other organizations at the installation. The 6th was assigned its first mission at MacDill to operate the base in support of U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, and a large number of other mission partners and tenant units. Operations in Haiti highlighting MacDill’s significance in the region and the 1995 Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission reversed course and recommended MacDill keep the airfield under Air Force control.

Within two years aerial refueling became the new mission at MacDill. With refuelers no longer tied to bombers, Air Mobility Command could now establish its first Regular Air Force tanker unit in the southeast.

In 2008, MacDill and the 6th welcomed the Air Force Reserve’s 927th Air Refueling Wing as a joint partner in the aerial refueling mission at MacDill. Currently, these two units, one active duty, and the other reserve – work together using the same KC-135 “Stratotankers” to carry out the Air Force’s missions efficiently.

Current Status

The 6th Air Refueling Wing performs aerial refueling, airlift, and contingency response missions for U.S. and allied forces around the world. The wing has more than 2,700 personnel to operate the base as well as maintain and operate its twenty-four assigned KC-135 “Stratotankers.” The 6th Air Refueling Wing is the host unit of MacDill Air Force Base and with the 927th Air Refueling Wing, it provides direct support to U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, and 32 other tenant organizations.

C-46A Pegasus refuels on the flight line at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida on 25 Oct 2021.

On 21 Dec 2021, USAF selected MacDill AFB as its next preferred location for the next-generation airborne Pegasus KC-46 Tanker, with MacDill to receive 24 of the new aerial tankers in the coming years. The final decision will probably be made after an environmental impact analysis, expected to be completed in the fall of 2023. MacDill's rival for the KC-46s is Fairchild AFB who will also undergo an environmental impact analysis.

Major Tennant Organizations

  • HQ United States Central Command (USCENTCOM)
  • HQ United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)
  • HQ United States Marine Forces Central Command (MARCENT)
  • HQ United States [[Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT)
  • Navy Operational Support Center Tampa (NOSC Tampa)
  • Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE)
  • 598th Range Squadron (598 RANS)
  • 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron (290 JCSS)
  • Joint Special Operations University (JSOU)
  • Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) Satellite Campus
  • United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

Location: Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida.

Maps & Images

Lat: 27.849444 Long: -82.521111

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Fortification ID:

  • FL0003 - MacDill Air Force Base
  • FL0032 - MacDill Field
  • FL0935 - Southeast Air Base, Tampa

Visited: 9 Sep 2021, 30 Jan 2012, 20 Dec 2009

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