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KC-10 Extender McDonnell Douglas
KC-10 Extender
Refueling Tanker

Under the Advanced Tanker/Cargo Aircraft (ATCA) program of the late 1970s, the Douglas DC-10 was selected as the base model for a new US Air Force in-flight refueling tanker called the KC-10. Developed from the DC-10-30CF convertible passenger/cargo model, the KC-10 was modified with three large fuel cells beneath the cabin floor and a retractable fuel boom in the aft fuselage. These additional tanks give the KC-10 Extender a total fuel capacity of 365,065 lb (161,510 kg), all of which is available for transfer to other aircraft.

In addition, the KC-10 is fitted with an in-flight refueling receptacle of its own allowing the aircraft to remain aloft indefinitely. The tail is fitted with both a boom system for refueling Air Force aircraft as well as a drogue system allowing Navy, Marines, and other friendly aircraft to refuel from the KC-10. The refueling boom is operated using a fly-by-wire control system and has a maximum transfer rate of 1,500 gal (5,680 L) per minute. The hose-and-drogue system fitted to the starboard side of the boom can extend out to 80 ft (25 m) and transfer fuel at a rate up to 600 gal (2,270 L) per minute. About 20 KC-10 aircraft have also been fitted with an additional refueling pod beneath each wing that allows up to three aircraft to be refueled simultaneously.

The main cabin is primarily dedicated to the transportation of freight and provides room for up to 27 standard cargo pallets. Space is also available in the forward cabin for up to 75 passengers, and bunks can be carried for use during long-range flights. This multi-functional capability allows the KC-10 to refuel a squadron of fighters while ferrying the squadron's support personnel and ground equipment en route to an overseas base.

A total of 60 examples of the KC-10 were built for the US Air Force by the time production was completed in 1988. The fleet is constantly being upgraded, and the Air Force plans to keep the KC-10 in service until at least 2040. The Netherlands has also taken delivery of former DC-10 airliners modified with refueling equipment and called the KDC-10.

Data below for KC-10A unless noted
Last modified 06 April 2011

First Flight 12 July 1980
Service Entry

17 March 1981

CREW: five: pilot/commander, co-pilot, flight engineer, refueling system operator, refueling observer
space is also provided for a third refueling crew member for training

PASSENGERS: (KC-10) 20 with 23 cargo pallets
(KC-10) 75 with 17 cargo pallets
(KDC-10) 240 with 4 cargo pallets


$86.8 million [1998$]

Wing Root DSMA-496/-521/-522
Wing Tip


Length 181.58 ft (55.40 m)
Wingspan 165.38 ft (50.45 m)
Height 58.08 ft (17.70 m)
Wing Area 3,958.7 ft (367.70 m)
Canard Area

not applicable

Empty (KC-10) 240,025 lb (108,875 kg) in tanker configuration
(KC-10) 244,630 lb (110,960 kg) in cargo configuration
(KDC-10) 250,000 lb (113,400 kg)
Normal Takeoff 100,000 lb (45,360 kg) of cargo or fuel in bladder cells
Max Takeoff (KC-10) 590,000 lb (267,620 kg)
(KDC-10) 565,000 lb (256,280 kg)
Fuel Capacity (KC-10) 238,235 lb (108,060 kg) in aircraft tanks
(KC-10) 117,830 lb (53,445 kg) in bladder fuel cells
(KDC-10) 246,000 lb (111,585 kg) total
Max Payload

(KC-10) 169,410 lb (76,845 kg)
(KDC-10) 151,000 lb (68,490 kg)

Powerplant three General Electric CF6-50C2 turbofans
Thrust 157,500 lb (700.6 kN)

Max Level Speed at altitude: 610 mph (980 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,620 m), Mach 0.88
at sea level: unknown
cruise speed: 565 mph (910 km/h) at 30,000 ft (9,145 m), Mach 0.88
Initial Climb Rate 2,900 ft (885 m) / min
Service Ceiling 42,000 ft (12,815 m)
Range typical: 6,000 nm (11,110 km)
typical: 3,795 nm (7,030 km) with maximum cargo
ferry: 9,995 nm (18,505 km)
g-Limits unknown

Gun none
Stations none
Air-to-Air Missile none
Air-to-Surface Missile none
Bomb none
Other none

KC-10A Production air-refueling tanker and transport aircraft based on the commercial DC-10-30CF; 60 built
KDC-10 Former civil DC-10 airframes modified into refueling tankers for the Netherlands and equipped with a refueling boom under the fuselage as well as a hose-and-drogue refueling pod under each wing plus a receptacle for refueling by another tanker; can carry up to 30 cargo pallets, 240 passengers, or 246,000 lb (111,585 kg) of fuel; 2 converted from ex-KLM airliners


Libya - Operation El Dorado Canyon (USAF, 1986)
Iraq - Operation Desert Storm (USAF, 1991)
Bosnia - Operation Deliberate Force (USAF, 1995)
Kosovo - Operation Allied Force (USAF, 1999)
Afghanistan - Operation Enduring Freedom (USAF, 2001-present)
Iraq - Operation Iraqi Freedom (USAF, 2003-present)
Libya - Operation Unified Protector (Netherlands, 2011)


Netherlands, Koninklijke Luchmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force)
United States (US Air Force)


KC-10 Extender

  • Bonds, Ray, ed. The Modern US War Machine: An Encyclopedia of American Military Equipment and Strategy. NY: Military Press, 1987, p. 202-203.
  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1997, p. 612, McDonnell Douglas DC-10.
  • Donald, David and Lake, Jon, ed. The Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 2000, p. 265-266, McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender.
  • Laur, Timothy M. and Llanso, Steven L. Encyclopedia of Modern U.S. Military Weapons. NY: Berkley Books, 1995, p. 153-155, Extender (KC-10).
  • Miller, David, ed. The Illustrated Directory of Modern American Weapons. London: Salamander Books, 2002, p. 138-139, Boeing KC-10A Extender.
  • Paul Nann's Military Aviation Photo Gallery
  • Rendall, David. Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide, 2nd ed. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999, p. 137, Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) KC-10 Extender.
  • Taylor, Michael. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1996/1997. London: Brassey's, 1996, p. 277, McDonnell Douglas KDC-10.
  • US Air Force KC-10 Fact Sheet
  • Wilson, Jim. Combat: The Great American Warplane. NY: Hearst Books, 2001, p. 128-129, KC-10 Extender.

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