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.
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.