Nearly a dozen KC-135 tankers are being evacuated from Florida to McConnell Air Force Base to protect them from Hurricane Irma, military officials announced Thursday.
The 11 tankers are coming from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Irma, currently a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 175 miles an hour, is projected to slam much of Florida this weekend.
“The safety of our airmen and aircraft is paramount," Col. April Vogel, commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill, said in a prepared statement. “Being here will ensure the aircraft and aircrews from MacDill are out of harm’s way until they can safely return to their home station, protecting millions of taxpayer dollars.”
The KC-135 tankers stationed at McConnell have evacuated twice over the past two years due to the threat of severe weather, and “we’re happy to be able to return the favor,” Col. Joshua Olson, commander of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, said in a prepared statement.
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The tankers are arriving today and Friday at McConnell, officials say.
Irma is projected to remain a major hurricane as it strikes the Tampa area and moves north through Florida, weather officials say.
Contributing: Jerry Siebenmark of the Eagle