KC-10A Extender: The USAF's 'other' tanker

Now in its 40th year of service, the McDonnell Douglas KC-10A has been continuously deployed since January 1991. Like most DC-10 airliners that preceded it, the Extender has entered its twilight years and will soon become part of the USAF’s past, reports Tom Kaminski.

USAF KC-10A [USAF/Ethan Wagner]
A KC-10A from the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis AFB, California, conducts refuelling operations with an F-35A from the 461st Flight Test Squadron during a 2018 test event. USAF/Ethan Wagner

Initially known as the Advanced Tanker and Cargo Aircraft (ATCA), the KC-10A was designed to provide increased global mobility for the US armed forces. Known as the Extender, the platform combines the tasks of a tanker and cargo aircraft through its ability to refuel fighters, along with carrying support personnel and equipment during overseas deployments. As with the smaller Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, it is also capable of transporting litter and ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuation missions, but air-to-air refuelling remains its primary mission.

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