The KC-10 Extender is one of the few jet aircraft in the world configured to haul military cargo, conduct aerial refueling missions and transport personnel at the same time. While the KC-10’s primary mission is aerial refueling, it can accommodate 75 passengers and transport 170,000 pounds of cargo.
The Extender is based on the civilian DC-10 commercial aircraft and has been in service with the U.S. Air Force since 1981. Twenty KC-10s were modified to add wing-mounted pods further enhancing their aerial refueling capabilities. Ongoing modifications include the addition of communications, navigation and surveillance equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs, and the incorporation of service bulletins to maintain Federal Aviation Administration certification.
Using either an advanced aerial refueling boom, or a hose and drogue centerline refueling system, the KC-10 can refuel a wide variety of U.S. and allied military aircraft within the same mission. The aircraft is equipped with lighting for night operations.
The KC-10's boom operator controls refueling operations through a digital, fly-by wire system. Sitting in the rear of the aircraft, the operator can see the receiver aircraft through a wide window. During boom refueling operations, fuel is transferred to the receiver at a maximum rate of 1,100 gallons (4,180 liters) per minute; the hose and drogue refueling maximum rate is 470 gallons (1,786 liters) per minute. The automatic load alleviation and independent disconnect systems greatly enhance safety and facilitate air refueling. The KC-10 can be air-refueled by a KC-135 or another KC-10A to increase its delivery range.
The large cargo-loading door can accept most air forces' fighter unit support equipment. Powered rollers and winches inside the cargo compartment permit moving heavy loads. The cargo compartment can accommodate loads ranging from 27 pallets to a mix of 17 pallets and 75 passengers.