Happy 40th Birthday KC-10

  • Published
  • By Mr. Walter Napier III
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing
This week marks the 40th birthday of the KC-10 Extender. While the first flight took place in 1980, the first aircraft entered service upon delivery to the Strategic Air Command on March 1, 1981. Since that time, the KC-10 has become a stalwart of the Air Force fleet. This will be one of the final birthdays spent with the aircraft, as the new KC-46 Pegasus has already begun to take its place.

The KC-10 was built out of the Boeing DC-10, with the KC-10 retaining 88 percent of the DC-10s loadout in 1981. A few of the items it changed include: Air Force avionics, air refueling boom and satellite communications equipment. While the KC-10 is a cargo aircraft, as the name “Extender” implies, its primary function has been providing airborne refueling services. Extending the flight time and combat capabilities of United States and allied aircraft. The aircraft has the capability to transport 75 people, 170,000 pounds of cargo, and 356,000 pounds of fuel for a single shot distance of 4,400 miles without needing to refuel; providing fuel to the receiving aircraft at a maximum of 1,100 gallons per minute.

The Extender has played a prominent role in the Persian Gulf during Desert Shield/Storm, where alongside the KC-135 Stratotanker, they provided 125 million gallons of fuel to allied aircraft without missing a single link up. Following the attack on September 11, 2001, the KC-10 flew more than 350 missions in support of Operation Noble Eagle, and another 1,390 missions in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

For the 514th Air Mobility Wing, the KC-10 holds a special place in the wing. Two of our high op tempo units, the 76th and 78th Air Refueling Squadrons, primary aircraft has been the KC-10 up to this point. From a historical perspective, in March 1998 the 514th were responsible for the first KC-10 deployment fully manned by Air Force Reserve personnel. During the deployment in support of Operation Southern Watch, the 514th flew 88 combat support sorties, and delivered 4.5 million pounds of fuel to Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft. More than 250 personnel from the 514th took part in the operation, with deployments from two-six weeks long.

As the KC-10 prepares for retirement and flies off into the sunset, join us in wishing it a Happy Birthday and a Happy Retirement!