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KC-10 Extender
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KC-10 Extender

KC-10 Extender

KC-10 Extender
RoleMid-air refueling
Crew3-6 (pilot, copilot, flight engineer + 3 refueling crew)
Length181 ft 7 in55.35 m
Wingspan165 ft 4 in50.4 m
Height58 ft 1 in17.7 m
Wing area3,958 ft²367.7 m²
Empty241,027 lb109,328 kg
Maximum take-off590,000 lb267,620 kg
Engines3 F103/General Electric CF6-50C2 turbofans
Thrust52,500 lbf (static)234 kN
Maximum speed610 mph982 km/h
Combat range4,370 mi7,032 km
Ferry range11,500 mi18,507 km
Service ceiling33,400 ft10,180 m
Rate of climb6,870 ft/min34.89 m/s

The KC-10 Extender is a tanker aircraft in service with the US Air Force. Though the 59 Extenders currently in service are greatly outnumbered by the venerable KC-135 Stratotanker, the KC-10 has a significantly larger fuel capacity.

Beginning with the Vietnam War doubts began to be raised about the ability of the 700+ strong KC-135 fleet to meet the needs of the United States’ global commitments. The air-refueling fleet was deployed to South-East Asia in support of tactical aircraft and strategic bombers, while maintaining the US based support of the nuclear bomber fleet. As a result studies began into the feasibility of acquiring an air-to-air tanker with a greater capability of the KC-135 fleet, but did not progress well due to lack of funding.

The Yom Kippur War in 1973 demonstrated the necessity of adequate air-refueling capabilities. Denied landing rights in Europe, USAF C-5 Galaxys were forced to carry a fraction of their maximum payload on direct flights from the continental United States to Israel. As a result C-5 crews were soon trained in aerial-refueling and the Department of Defense concluded that a more advanced tanker was needed.

In 1975, under the “Advance Tanker/Cargo Aircraft” programme, four aircraft were evaluated, the C-5 itself, the Boeing 747 (which lost out to the C-5 in a previous military contract,) the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011. Donald Rumsfeld, in his first posting to the Pentagon, selected the KC-10 in 1976.

Conversion to the KC-10 involved only minor modifications to the DC-10, the largest of which was the addition of a boom control station in the rear of the fuselage and extra fuel tanks under the main deck. First deliveries to the Strategic Air Command (then in control of AAR assets) commenced in 1981.

In the AAR role the KC-10 has been operated largely in the same way as the RAF’s Tristar (L-1011s,) i.e. the strategic refueling of large number of tactical aircraft on ferry flights and the refueling of other strategic transport aircraft. Conversely, the KC-135 and RAF VC-10 fleets have operated largely in the in-theatre “tactical” role. Excellent examples of the KC-10s strategic role are,

The Royal Netherlands Air Force operates two "KDC-10s" in the aerial refueling role and is acquring an additional aircraft to serve in the strategic transport role.

Modern USAF Series Miscellaneous
Attack--OA/A-10,AC-130H/U RC-135V/RC-135W Rivet Joint
Bomber--B-52,-2,-1B,F-117A OC-135B Open Skies
Fighter--F-15/E ,F-16 KC-10 Extender
Electronic--E-3,-4B,-8C EC-130E/J,H KC-135 Stratotanker
Transport--C-5,-17,-141B, -20,-21 MC-130E/H HC-130P/N
C-22B, -32, -130, -37A, -40B/C MC-130P Combat Shadow
Trainers--T-1, -37, -38, -43, -6 MH-53J/M Pave Low
Weather--WC-130, -135 HH-60G Pave Hawk
UAV--RQ-1/MQ-1 UAV, Global Hawk UH-1N Huey
VC-25 - Air Force One
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