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MacDill AFB


MacDill AFB

Airfield information
Elevation AMSL 14 ft / 4 m
Coordinates 27°50′58″N 082°31′16″W / 27.84944°N 82.52111°W / 27.84944; -82.52111Coordinates: 27°50′58″N 082°31′16″W / 27.84944°N 82.52111°W / 27.84944; -82.52111

Location of MacDill Air Force Base
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4/22 11,421 3,481 Asphalt
Sources: official site[1] and FAA[2]

MacDill Air Force Base (AFB) (IATA: MCFICAO: KMCFFAA LID: MCF) is an active United States Air Force base located approximately 6.4 km (4 miles) south-southwest of downtown Tampa, Florida. The "host wing" for MacDill AFB is the 6th Air Mobility Wing (6 AMW) of the Air Mobility Command (AMC), part of AMC's Eighteenth Air Force (18 AF).

The 6th Air Mobility Wing is commanded by Colonel Scott V. DeThomas.[3] The Wing's Command Chief Master Sergeant is Tommy Mazzone.[4]


The host unit at MacDill AFB is the 6th Air Mobility Wing (6 AMW), assigned to the Air Mobility Command's 21st Expeditionary Mobility Task Force. In addition to operating KC-135R Stratotanker and C-37A Gulfstream aircraft, the 6 AMW provides day-to-day mission support to more than 3,000 personnel in its immediate command, along with more than 50 Mission Partners comprising over 12,000 additional personnel, to include the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and a detachment of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). MacDill also bases the Aircraft Operations Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose NOAA Corps flies "Hurricane Hunter" missions in WP-3D Orion and Gulfstream IV aircraft. The 6 AMW is a 3,000-person force organized into four groups, in addition to the wing commander's immediate staff.

The 6 AMW also has a collocated "Associate" wing at MacDill, the 927th Air Refueling Wing (927 ARW) of the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC). The 6 AMW and the 927 ARW operate and share the same assigned KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft.


6th Air Mobility Wing

The 6 AMW consists of:

91st Air Refueling Squadron (91 ARS)
Operates the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker. The KC-135R is a long-range tanker aircraft capable of refueling a variety of other aircraft in mid-air, anywhere in the world and under any weather condition. MacDill KC-135s have supported US military operations all over the world, including refueling US and coalition aircraft during the wars in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
310th Airlift Squadron (310 AS)
Operates three Gulfstream C-37A Gulfstream V aircraft utilizing highly experienced flight crews to provide global transportation on special assignment airlift missions (SAAM) directly supporting the Combatant Commanders of U.S. Central Command, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Joint Forces Command, and U.S. Strategic Command.
6th Operations Support Squadron (6 OSS)
Provides airfield management responsibilities for MacDill AFB, to include staffing and operation of the air traffic control tower, weather forecasting services, transient alert services and other flight operations and aircrew support functions.
  • 6th Maintenance Group (6 MXG)
  • 6th Medical Group (6 MDG)
  • 6th Mission Support Group (6 MSG)

927th Air Refueling Wing

The 927 ARW consists of:

  • 927th Operations Group (927 OG)
63d Air Refueling Squadron (63 ARS)
Operates the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker. The KC-135R is a long-range tanker aircraft capable of refueling a variety of other aircraft in mid-air, anywhere in the world and under any weather condition.
927th Operations Support Flight (927 OSF)
  • 927th Maintenance Group (927 MXG)
  • 927th Mission Support Group (927 MSG)

The 927 ARW is commanded by Colonel David P. Pavey, USAF.

Other major tenant units

MacDill has a total of 38 tenant units according to the official MacDill website.

Also located at MacDill are a division of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE), the Air Force Reserve Command's 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (45 AES), the Florida Air National Guard's 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron (290 JCSS), the Navy Reserve Forces Command's Navy Operational Support Center Tampa (NOSC Tampa), the US Army's 297th Military Intelligence Battalion, the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory, activities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, elements of the American Red Cross, the anti-medfly operation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Detachment 1 of the Air Combat Command's 23d Wing (23 WG) from Moody Air Force Base, GA, among numerous other organizations, activities and agencies.

Detachment 1 of the 23d Wing is unique in that it hosts the Deployed Unit Complex (DUC) at MacDill AFB, providing flight line and logistical support for detachments of Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps tactical jet fighter and attack aircraft (to include Reserve and Air National Guard) utilizing the nearby Avon Park Air Force Range facility, the Avon Range also being operated and maintained by Det 1, 23d Wing. An Air Combat Command (ACC) organization, Det 1 reports to the Commander, 23d Wing, at Moody AFB, Georgia.

The base also supports the large military retiree community in the Tampa Bay area and surrounding environs.


MacDill AFB was established in 1939 as Southeast Air Base, Tampa. It is named in honor of Colonel Leslie MacDill (1889–1938). A World War I aviator, Colonel MacDill was killed in a crash of his North American BC-1 on 8 November 1938 at Anacostia, D.C. During World War I he commanded an aerial gunnery school in St Jean de Monte, France. There are several dates surrounding the history of MacDill AFB. Official records report an establishment date of 24 May 1939, date construction began 6 September 1939, date of beneficial occupancy 11 March 1940 and formal dedication 16 April 1941. This last date is normally associated with the age of the base. It was renamed MacDill Field on 1 December 1939.

MacDill Field was one of two major Army Air Corps bases established in the Tampa Bay area in the buildup prior to World War II. Tampa's Drew Field Municipal Airport, established in 1928 was leased by the Air Corps in 1940. A major expansion of the airport was initiated and Drew Army Airfield was opened in 1941. Headquarters, Southeast Air District was first activated at MacDill Field on 18 December 1940. It was later re-designated HQ Third Air Force and moved to offices in downtown Tampa on 8 January 1941.

Two secondary Army Airfields, Brooksville Army Airfield and Hillsborough Army Airfield were built and opened in early 1942 to support the flight operations of MacDill and Drew Fields. The Bonita Springs Auxiliary Field, located near Fort Myers provided an additional emergency landing field for MacDill.

All of these airfields came under the jurisdiction of Third Air Force. III Bomber Command, the bombardment arm of 3d Air Force was headquartered at MacDill Field. III Fighter Command, the fighter arm, was headquartered at Drew Field.

Initial uses

After the war in Europe had broken out in September 1939, fears of Nazi U-Boats attacking American shipping in the Gulf of Mexico was the concern of the War Department. Even though the United States was at peace, Lend Lease shipments of war goods to England and the establishment of Army and Navy bases in the Caribbean Sea south of Florida brought fears of U-Boat attacks on shipping in the Gulf, especially oil tankers from refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

Flying operations at MacDill began in 1941 with the base's first mission being the defense of Gulf of Mexico. Aircraft and men were housed at Drew Army Airfield until the runways at MacDill were built. Despite these obstacles, flying operations commenced on 7 February 1941. Hundreds of troops lived mostly in a mosquito-infested tent city at the field while barracks were being built. An official flag-raising ceremony was sponsored by the Tampa Elk’s Lodge on 16 June 1941.

Air defense of the Tampa Bay area was the mission of the 53d Pursuit Group (Interceptor), established at MacDIll on 15 January 1941. Equipped with the Seversky P-35, the 53d flew air defense patrols until the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. It was reassigned to VI Fighter Command at Howard Field, Canal Zone to provide air defense of the Panama Canal.

The 29th Bombardment Group was moved to MacDill from Langley Field, Virginia on 21 May 1940. Lieutenant Colonel Vincent J. Meloy, commander of the 29th Bombardment Group, led the first flight of aircraft to Tampa on 17 January 1941. This consisted of fourteen aircraft flown from Langley Field to Tampa: three B-17s, two A-17s, and nine B-18s. The group flew antisubmarine patrols over the eastern Gulf waters until June 1942 when the group was transitioned into a B-24 Liberator Operational Training Unit and assigned to II Bomber Command at Gowen Field, Idaho.

The 44th Bombardment Group was activated at MacDill on 15 January 1941 equipped with the Consolidated B-24A Liberator. The Liberator was originally ordered by the Royal Air Force as the "LB-30" or Liberator I. These aircraft were destined for RAF Coastal Command for use in its battles against the U-boat menace. With a normal operating range of 2400 miles, the Liberators nearly doubled the effective range of the B-18 and it could fly long anti-submarine patrols equipped with a large bomb load to attack submarines if spotted. Patrols were also flown over the Atlantic Coast east of Florida. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 44th was reassigned to Barksdale Field, Louisiana.

In addition to the antisubmarine mission, another prewar mission of MacDill was "Project X" the ferrying of combat aircraft eastward to the Philippines via ferrying routes set up by Ferrying Command over South Atlantic Ocean and Central Africa. The aircraft were then ferried via India to Australia where they were planned to be used to reinforce the Philippines Air Force. These operations began in February 1941 and were performed by the 6th and 43d Bombardment Squadron flying the B-18 Bolo and B-17 Flying Fortress. In just 60 days, 15 LB-30 and 63 B-17 aircraft departed MacDill via the south Atlantic and Africa to Australia.

World War II

With the United States entry into World War II, the primary mission of MacDill Field became the training of bombardment units under III Bomber Command. In June 1942, the 21st Bombardment Group was assigned with B-26 Marauder medium bombers as the Operational Training Unit (OTU). As well as the main training unit, the group flew antisubmarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico.

It was the B-26 that earned the slogan "one a day in Tampa Bay." The aircraft proved hard to fly and land by many pilots due to its short wings, high landing speeds, and fighter plane maneuverability. Nine of the 12 combat groups that flew the B-26 in Europe were activated and trained at MacDill and in combat the B-26 enjoyed the lowest loss rate of any Allied bomber.

In addition MacDill provided transitional training in the B-17 Flying Fortress. The first Eighth Air Force Flying Fortress groups were trained at MacDill Field prior to their deployment to England in the summer of 1942. Also the command and control organizations for Eighth Air Force were organized and equipped at MacDill in 1942. Heavy bomber training ended in July 1942 as the B-17 group training mission was reassigned to II Bomber Command and moved to the midwest and western states.

Estimates of the number of crew members trained at the base during the war vary from 50,000 to 120,000, with as many as 15,000 troops were stationed at MacDill Field at one time. A contingent of Women’s Army Corps (WACS) troops arrived in 1943. The base provided various forms of entertainment including band concerts, live performers, and a movie theatre. Two films were made in Tampa with wartime themes: John Garfield and had scenes shot at Drew Field. In the latter film MacDill-based B-26s were painted as Japanese bombers, and although the entire Bay area defenses were alerted to this fact, the Coast Guard still shot at the planes as they flew over the Gulf.

In late 1943, when Second Air Force began transitioning to B-29 Superfortress training, the B-17 mission returned to MacDill which continued through the end of World War II. As a result, the B-26 21st Bombardment Group was disbanded on 10 October 1943. The OTU which performed the B-17 training was the 488th Bombardment Group (Heavy) which was activated in November 1943 with four Bombardment training squadrons.

In an administrative reorganization by HQ Army Air Force, on 1 May 1944, numbered training units in the Zone of the Interior (ZI) (Continental United States) were re-designated as "Army Air Force Base Units". At MacDill, the 488th Bomb Group was re designated as the 326th Army Air Forces Base Unit (Heavy Bombardment). B-17 training squadrons were designated as "H, J, K, and L".

Beginning in January 1944, the 11th Photographic Group used MacDill for its mission of photographic mapping in the US and sent detachments to carry out similar operations in Africa, the CBI theater, the Near and Middle East, Mexico, Canada, Alaska, and the Caribbean. The unit flew a mixture of B-17, B-24, B-25, B-29, F-2, F-9, F-10, and A-20 aircraft equipped with cartographic cameras. The 11th PG inactivated in October 1944, being replaced by several intelligence and mapping training units at the airfield from 1945 through 1948.

Several bases in Florida, including MacDill, served as detention centers for German prisoners-of-war (POWs) in the latter part of 1944 and 1945. At its apex, 488 POWs were interned at MacDill.

In February 1945, the 323d Combat Crew Training Wing (Very Heavy Bomber) was established at the base with a mission of training B-29 Superfortress aircrews. The first training class began at the end of February and the B-29 Superfortress arrived at MacDill Field on 26 January 1945, with additional aircraft arriving during the spring and summer The first B-29 aircrew graduated in May. On 16 April 1945 MacDill was assigned to Continental Air Command and became a primary training facility for aircrew assigned to the B-29 Superfortress.

On 24 June 1945 a hurricane hit the Tampa area, and the B-17 aircraft were evacuated to Vichy Army Airfield, Missouri. At the end of June 1945, B-17 replacement crew training ended at the base. With the end of the war in Europe and the B-17 being used almost exclusively in Europe, the need for replacement personnel by Eighth and Fifteenth Air Force was ended.

The 326th Army Air Forces Base Unit was reorganized into an Army Air Forces separation (326th AAFBU (Separation Station) )unit to process military demobilizations. The demobilization and separation functions became the major mission at MacDill in the fall of 1945, however, a lack of personnel was the main inhibiting factor. On 1 January 1946, with the closure of Drew Army Airfield, the demobilization and separation activities performed by the 301st Army Air Forces Base Unit (Separation Station) were transferred to MacDill Field. The Separation station remained open until December 1949.

With the end of hostilities in September 1945 the training B-29 aircrew training program began to slow down. The base became a reception facility for returning Twentieth Air Force groups from the Marianas. These groups were:

The rapid demobilization after the war led these units to be inactivated during 1946. Headquarters, III Fighter Command moved from Drew Field in December 1945; both III Bomber and III Fighter Commands were inactivated on 8 April 1946.

Strategic Air Command

307th Bombardment Group

On 21 March 1946, Continental Air Command was redesignated as Strategic Air Command (SAC). On 4 August 1946, SAC activated the 307th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) as the host unit at MacDill, being initially equipped with Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. Known initial operational squadrons of the group were the 370th, 371st and 372d Bombardment Squadrons.

The group selected as SAC's first antisubmarine unit in December 1946. Precursor to similar SAC units, the group began training other SAC combat units in anti-submarine warfare and operational procedures. In February 1947 the wing began operating a B-29 transition training school and standardized combat training for all SAC units.

The unit was redesignated as the 307th Bombardment Wing, Medium on 12 July 1948. Under the wing designation, the 306th Bombardment Group (eff: 12 August 1948) and 307th Bombardment Group (eff: 12 July 1948) were attached to the wing. This brought three additional operational squadrons (367th, 368th and 369th Bombardment Squadrons) under the wing's command. In 1952, the 307th Bombardment Wing was bestowed the lineage, honors and history of the USAAF World War II 307th Bombardment Group.

On 1 September 1950, the 307th Bomb Group with its three squadrons of B-29s was deployed to Far East Air Force (FEAF) Bomber Command, Provisional at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, engaging in combat operations during the Korean War. From Kadena, the 307th staged attacks against the rapidly advancing communist forces in South Korea. While in Okinawa, the 307th was awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation for its air strikes against enemy forces in Korea. It was also awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation and several campaign streamers.

The 307th BG returned from deployment on 10 February 1951, however elements of the group remained deployed in Okinawa on a permanent basis. Later in 1951, the B-29s of the group at MacDill were replaced by the Boeing B-50D Superfortress.

Also on 1 September 1950 the 306th Bomb Group was transferred to the newly activated 306th Bombardment Wing at MacDill and continued the wing's training mission.

The 307th Bomb Wing was inactivated at MacDill on 16 June 1952. The 307th Bomb Group was permanently reassigned to Kadena Air Base upon the inactivation of the wing at MacDill.

306th Bombardment Wing

On 1 September 1950 the 306th Bombardment Wing was activated at MacDill and became SAC's first operational B-47 jet bomber wing. Upon activation, operational units of the wing were the 367th, 368th and 369th Bombardment Squadrons under the 306th Bombardment Group which was transferred from the 307th BMW.

Deliveries of the new Boeing B-47A Stratojet Stratojet to the USAF began in December 1950. It entered service in May 1951 with the 306th Bombardment Wing. The 306th was intended to act as a training outfit to prepare future B-47 crews. The B-47As were primarily training aircraft and were not considered as being combat ready, and none of the B-47As ever saw any operational duty.

On 19 November 1951 the Wing received its first operational Boeing B-47B and christened it "The Real McCoy" in honor of Colonel Michael N. W. McCoy, the wing commander who flew it from the Boeing Wichita plant to MacDill. During 1952, the 306th developed combat procedures and techniques for the new bomber and soon emerged as a leader in jet bombardment tactics and strategies.

The first Boeing KC-97E Stratotanker assigned to Strategic Air Command was delivered to the 306th Air Refueling Squadron at MacDill on 14 July 1951. In-flight refueling operations started in May 1952 with KC-97s refueling B-47s on operational training missions leading toward combat-ready status.

In 1953, the 306th became the first operational B-47 Wing. The wing became the backbone of the US Nuclear Deterrence Strategy by maintaining high levels of ground alert in the US and at overseas bases. The Wing was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit citation for its role as a pioneer and leader in jet bombardment tactics. B-47Bs from the 306th Bomb Wing began a 90-day rotational training mission to England in June 1953, marking the first overseas deployment of the B-47. Major (selectee) Glenn A. McConnell led the first 4 B47s to RAF Brize Norton. For its role in advancing jet bombardment tactics, the wing was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award citation (AFOUC). Additional deployments were made to RAF Fairford England, June – September 1953, at Ben Guerir AB, French Morocco (later Morocco), January – February 1955, October 1956 – January 1957 and October 1957.

In 1954, SAC designated specific air refueling organizations and the 306th Air Refueling Squadron became ready to support B-47 operations across the command. During 1954, the more advanced B-47Es, with ejection seats, improved electronics and a white reflective paint scheme, replaced the 306th BMW B-47Bs.

During 1954–55, MacDill and the wing also served as a backdrop for part of the Paramount Pictures film Strategic Air Command starring James Stewart and June Allyson, a portion of which was filmed in and around both the 305th Bombardment Wing and 306th Bombardment Wing areas and their B-47 aircraft at MacDill AFB.

As SAC's B-47s were being phased out of the inventory, inactivation planning of the 306th BMW began. Phase down and transfer of B-47s was started, and by 15 February 1963 the wing was no longer capable of fulfilling its part of the strategic war plan. On 1 April 1963, SAC inactivated the 306th BMW at MacDill and reactivated it the same day at McCoy AFB, Florida as a B-52D and KC-135A heavy bombardment wing. McCoy AFB was the former Pinecastle AFB, having been renamed after Colonel Michael N. W. McCoy following his death in a B-47 mishap near the base in 1957.

305th Bombardment Wing

On 2 January 1951 the 305th Bombardment Wing was activated at MacDill. The unit became the second Strategic Air Command wing to receive the B-47 jet bomber. Operational squadrons of the wing were the 305th, 364th, 365th and 366th Bombardment Squadrons. Initially training with the Boeing B-29 and B-50 Superfortress, later that year the 305th received its first Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter. Following this, the group began training heavily in its new dual mission of strategic bombardment and aerial refueling.

The 809th Air Division (809th AD) took over host unit responsibilities at MacDill on 16 June 1952. The 809th AD consisted of the 305th and 306th Bombardment Wings which were both assigned to the base.

In June 1952, the wing upgraded to the all-jet Boeing B-47 Stratojet. The wing continued strategic bombardment and refueling operations from MacDill. The wing deployed overseas three times, once to England (September–December 1953) and twice to North Africa (November 1955 – January 1956 and January–March 1957), in keeping with its mission of global bombardment and air refueling operations. Two wing B-47s set speed records on 28 July 1953 when one flew from RCAF Goose Bay, Labrador, to RAF Fairford, England, in 4:14 hours and the other flew from Limestone AFB, Maine, to RAF Fairford in 4:45 hours

In May 1959, the 305th Bomb Wing with B-47's was reassigned to Bunker Hill AFB, later Grissom AFB, Indiana. The 809th AD inactivated on 1 June 1959 with the reassignment of the 305th Bomb Wing.

Air Defense Command

Air Defense Command became a major tenant unit at MacDill in 1954 with the establishment of a Mobile radar station on the base to support the permanent ADC Radar network in the United States sited around the perimeter of the country. This deployment was projected to be operational by mid-1952. Funding, constant site changes, construction, and equipment delivery delayed deployment.

This site at MacDill, designated as M-129 became operational on 1 August 1954 when the 660th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was assigned to the base by the 35th Air Division. MacDill became the first operational mobile radar under the first phase of the program. The 660th ACWS initially used an AN/MPS-7 radar. By 1958 MacDill also had AN/GPS-3 and AN/MPS-14 radars. During the following year the AN/GPS-3 and AN/MPS-7 sets were replaced by AN/FPS-20A search and AN/FPS-6B height-finder sets.

During 1961 MacDill AFB joined the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, initially feeding data to DC-09 at Gunter AFB, Alabama. After joining, the squadron was re-designated as the 660th Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 March 1961. Also, in 1961 an AN/FPS-7B assumed search duties, and an additional height-finder radar was added in the form of an AN/FPS-26.

In 1963 an AN/FPS-90 height-finder radar replaced the AN/FPS-6B, and n 31 July 1963, the site was redesignated as NORAD ID Z-129. In addition to the main facility, Z-129 operated several unmanned Gap Filler sites:

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