This KC-10 Extender Flew Its Final Refueling Mission in Europe, Family Slowly Dying Out

In the summer of last year, the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee approved the U.S. Air Force’s request to remove from service 14 KC-10 Extenders by the end of fiscal year 2022, a reality that will bring the size of the existing fleet to just 36 remaining aircraft.
KC-10 Extender with the 305th Air Mobility Wing 6 photos
Photo: USAF/Airman Simonne Barker
KC-10 Extender with the 305th Air Mobility WingKC-10 ExtenderKC-10 ExtenderKC-10 ExtenderKC-10 Extender
The gradual retirement of the KC-10 continued this May, when the 305th Air Mobility Wing flew one of their tankers out of the U.S. European Command area of responsibility for the last time. The plane (main photo of this piece), is pictured here on the tarmac of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, where it landed in late May.

"The KC-10 is reaching the end of its era, but it was great to employ it one last time. Its served its purpose well so these final flights are really bittersweet, but we look forward to a bright new future with the KC-46," said in a statement U.S. Air Force Capt. Robert Bedell, KC-10 detachment operations officer.

Introduced in 1981 as both a refueling tanker and as a transport that can carry personnel and equipment on overseas deployments, the Boeing machine can transport 356,000 pounds (160,200 kilograms) of fuel or up to 75 people and nearly 170,000 pounds (76,560 kilograms) of cargo, for distances that can reach 4,400 miles (7,040 km).

The price of such a plane, in fiscal 1998 constant dollars, is $88.4 million. At the time of writing, the USAF lists 59 such planes in its active force fleet.

The military branch has a few options on the table for its future refueling needs, and one of them is the Lockheed Martin LMXT. Envisioned as a direct successor to the other tanker family in the American arsenal, the KC-135 Stratotanker, it is supposed to become operational sometime by the end of the decade.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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