The KC-10 Extender is an aerial refueling tanker aircraft manufactured by McDonnell Douglas. It is developed to produce increased global mobility for the United States Air Force (USAF) and other alliance forces. The aircraft is designed for cargo and passenger use.

McDonnell Douglas
United States
1979 to: 1987
US$88.4 million (1998)
Rockwell Collins
3x F103/General Electric CF6-50C2
52,500 pound-force
Max Cruise Speed:
468 knots
867 Km/h
Approach Speed (Vref):
149 knots
Travel range:
4,400 Nautical Miles
8,149 Kilometers
Fuel Economy:
Service Ceiling:
42,000 feet
Rate of Climb:
6870 feet / minute
34.90metre / second
Take Off Distance:
3000 metre - 9,842.40 feet
Landing Distance:
1800 metre - 5,905.44 feet
Max Take Off Weight:
268,980 Kg
592,993 lbs
Max Landing Weight:
188,940 Kg
416,537 lbs
Max Payload:
76,843 Kg
169,408 lbs
Fuel Tank Capacity:
42,720 gallon
161,712 litre
Baggage Volume:
477 m3 / 16,845 ft3
Seats - Economy / General:
4 seats
Seats - Business Class:
Seats - First Class:
Cabin Height:
2.5 metre - 8.20 feet
Cabin Width:
5.7 metre - 18.70 feet
Cabin Length:
36.8 metre - 120.73 feet
Exterior Length:
55.35 metre - 181.59 feet
Tail height:
17.7 metre - 58.07 feet
Fuselage Diameter:
6.02 metre - 19.75 feet
Wing Span / Rotor Diameter:
50.41 metre - 165.39 feet
Wing Tips:
No Winglets

KC-10 Extender Production and Development

On July 12 1980, the KC-10 Extender took its maiden flight. In October of the same year, the first refueling operation took place.

In March 1981, the aircraft entered into service.

In November 1988, the sixtieth air tanker was delivered. Around sixty units of KC-10 tankers are in service around the globe.

The KC-10 is based from the former MD DC-10-30CF or convertible freighter. The aircraft is developed to target the demands of the United States Air Force.

In 2009, the United States Air Force granted Northrop Grumman a 3.8 billion dollar contract for nine years to provide logistic assistance to its KC-10 aircraft. Partners involve are Chromalloy Gas Turbine Corporation, AAR Corporation, and MTU Maintenance.

In June 2010, the aircraft was enhanced with Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) system as part of a 216 million dollar contract with the United States Air Force.

On July 25 2011, the United States Air Force signed a 160 million dollar contract with Rockwell Collins for the overhaul of the aircraft under the Communication, Navigation and Surveillance/ Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) Cockpit Modernization Program. It also includes Flight Management System (FMS), Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC), and surveillance systems.

In 2012, the enhanced KC-10 Extender went to the sky for its first flight testing.

In 2015, the last modified aircraft was deployed to the United States Air Force.

KC-10 Extender Design

Refueling of the aircraft can be conducted using the flying boom method or a separate hose and drogue center-line system. The refueling operations were controlled with the use of a fly-by-wire system by the boom operator positioned at the rear part of the cockpit. The boom operator can observe and detect the receiver aircraft through a wide window. The receiver then acquires fuel at the rate of 1,100 gal per minute by the use of boom refueling method.

The KC-10 Extender is outfitted with wing-mounted aerial refueling pods. The receiving aircraft advances toward the air tanker and its probe meets the stretched out hose from the air tanker.

At the maximum rate of 470 gal per minute, the hose and drogue refueling system is able to transfer fuel to the receiving aircraft. There is an Automatic Load Alleviation System (ALAS) and Independent Disconnect System (IDS) that oversee the process of refueling to provide safety measures and aid during operations.

The KC-10 Extender is designed with three fuel tanks to be used for refueling missions. It is also equipped with three more fuel tanks underneath the cargo floor. These tanks execute refueling process more effectively.

The aircraft has an external length of 55.35 meters, tail height of 17.7 meters and fuselage diameter of 6.02 meters.

KC-10 Extender Cockpit

The KC-10 Extender features a glass cockpit that has four seats occupied by the pilot, together with the co-pilot, flight engineer and boom operator. The pilot and co-pilot sit side by side in front while the flight engineer is seated behind it. The boom operator occupies the seat at the outer edge of the seat of flight engineer.

For additional crew members during operations, optional seats and bunks can be added in the cockpit in a different configuration.

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KC-10 Extender Engine and Performance

Three General Electric CF6-50C2 power the KC-10 Extender. These turbofan engines have a maximum thrust of 52,500 lbs each. Each engine has a length of 4.64 meters and a diameter of 2.66 meters. It has a maximum dry weight of 9,047 lbs.

The KC-10 Extender has a rate of climb of 6,870 feet per minute. It has a maximum speed of 468 knots, a service ceiling of 42,000 feet, and a travel range of 4,400 nautical miles. Its take off and landing distance are 3,000 meters and 1,800 meters respectively.

The aircraft can carry around 43,000 US Gal of fuel. It has a maximum take off weight of 268,980 kg and a maximum landing weight of 188,940 kg.

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