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The KC-10A Extender Tanker Officially Performs Its Final Combat Mission

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    The KC-10A Extender Tanker Officially Performs Its Final Combat Mission

    After more than four decades of supporting air refueling and air cargo transportation, the multirole tanker aircraft from the DC-10 platform, namely the KC-10A Extender belonging to the US Air Force (USAF), has reportedly just carried out its final combat mission. In fact, since 2020, the US Air Force has begun to gradually retire the KC-10A by sending it to the 'aircraft graveyard'.

    Photos published today by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) show a KC-10A departing Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB) in Saudi Arabia, on October 5, 2023. According to the accompanying caption, the Extender's departure ends the combat mission the last type of tankette aircraft.

    Air Mobility Command (AMC) confirmed that this was the KC-10's final combat deployment anywhere in the world, not just in the Middle East. “For nearly four decades, the KC-10A has helped secure America's global reach,” said AMC spokeswoman Jessica Brown. "It is estimated that the remaining fleet will be transferred to its home station soon."

    The debut of the KC-10 Extender covers more than 30 years spent at US Air Forces Central (AFCENT) which includes PSAB. During that time, the KC-10A played a critical role in supporting various military operations, including Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

    A previous DVIDS media release provided a description of the KC-10A involved in the final combat sortie returning to PSAB, on 3 October. The aircraft was assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron (EARS), a unit under the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing.

    Referring to its history, the KC-10 Extender first flew from the McDonnell Douglas stable on July 12 1980. Meanwhile, the US Air Force officially entered service in March 1981. 

    Almost 88 percent of the components of the KC-10A Extender are identical to the DC-10 used by civil aviation, this is the point It is important that the operator is interested, considering that there is ease in the maintenance system and the similarity of spare parts.

    The KC-10A can also be converted from the DC-10 commercial transport aircraft, the visible changes being the change in window design and lower cargo door design. It should be noted that the MRTT label does not only belong to Airbus, the KC-10 Extender also has MRTT status, apart from its main function as a tanker aircraft, this trijet aircraft can also act as a cargo aircraft.

    By being a KC-10A Extender, this aircraft is physically equipped with an Advanced Aerial Refueling Boom (AARB) and additional fuel tanks located in the luggage compartment below the main deck. With this tank below deck, the fuel capacity ready to be distributed to other aircraft can reach 161,478 kg. For comparison, the fuel capacity of the Airbus A330-200 MRTT is only 111,000 kg.

    Initially the KC-10A Extender was only equipped with one centerline refueling, meaning that the aircraft could only supply fuel to one type of aircraft at a time.

    Only then were modifications made by adding wing pods with drouge, so that on one occasion the KC-10 could provide air refueling services to two aircraft at once, so that the KC-10A Extender's capabilities were equivalent to the Airbus A330-200 MRTT which was also equipped with wing pods.

    In total there are 60 KC-10 Extender units operated by the US Air Force, with 20 of them equipped with wing pods. In its capacity as a cargo aircraft, the KC-10A Extender in full cargo capacity can carry a payload of up to 77,110 kg. Or by carrying 75 personnel with cargo weighing 66,225 kg. To make loading and unloading easier, there is a cargo door on the left side of the plane.

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