The Air Force announced the selection of McDonnell Douglas on December 19, 1977. The selection was based on integrated assessment of capability, price, life-cycle costs and technical features of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. The initial contract of $28 million funded production engineering, tooling and other non-recurring activities, with quantities of aircraft to be determined by available funding in future years.
An additional logistics support sum of $429,000 was awarded to McDonnell Douglas as part of a basic contract for logistics planning in preparation for subsequent total support of the KC-l0A force, with annual options for spare parts and support equipment, intermediate and depot-level maintenance, systems management and technical support. McDonnell Douglas provides maintenance support under Federal Aviation Administration ground rules. USAF personnel are responsible for accomplishing flight line maintenance tasks, as well as maintenance management functions.
The commercial DC-10 entered airline service in 1971, the same year McDonnell Douglas began engineering work on the USAF version that led to the KC-10A contract. The commercial DC-10, chosen by 47 airlines, carries more passengers to more cities worldwide than any other wide-cabin jetliner.
The C-10 designation was initially given to the (then) Handley-Page Jetstream. But, when H-P was going through some rough financial times prior to being absorbed into BAe, the USAF cancelled the contract before any deliveries were made to operational units. The number was retired and then assigned to the next bird coming along, the Douglas DC-10 ATCA (Advanced Tanker Cargo Aircraft). No US aircraft has had the K prefix without having first had a primary designator (eg: B-/KB-29, A-/KA-3, C-/KC-135),
With the KC-10A program, the USAF took advantage of the nearly $2 billion invested by McDonnell Douglas and its subcontractors in development of the DC-10 and of the huge investments by the airlines in establishing a worldwide support system, thus reducing both the acquisition and operation costs of the KC-10A as compared to an all-new military development. The U.S. Air Force and McDonnell Douglas signed contracts totaling $148 million in November 1978 for production of the first two KC-l0s, for the balance of the non-recurring engineering costs and for the initial spare parts and other support for the KC-10 program. A second contract, calling for production of four additional KC-l0s at a cost of $173 million, was signed November, 1979. At the same time, a $10.1 million logistics support contract option to provide spares and support equipment was signed.
A third contract, calling for production of six more KC-l0s at a cost of $284 million, was signed in February of 1981. A $14 million logistics support contract for those aircraft also was signed. A fourth contract, calling for production of four more KC-l0s at a cost of $196 million was signed in January, 1982, along with a $21 million contract for logistic support.
The first flight of the KC-10A took place on July 12, 1980. The first aerial refueling occurred during testing on October 30, 1980, with the receiver aircraft a C-5.The first KC-10A was delivered to the Air Force on March 17, 1981. The KC-10A force of 60 aircraft is based with the Air Combat Command at Barksdale AFB, LA, and at March AFB, CA, beginning in the fall of 1982.
During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the KC-10 fleet provided in-flight refueling to aircraft from all branches of the U.S. armed forces as well as those of other coalition forces. In-flight refueling extended the range and capability of all U.S. and other coalition fighter aircraft. Air operations continued without costly and time-consuming ground refueling. In-flight refueling was key to the rapid airlift of material and forces. In addition to refueling airlift aircraft, the KC-10A, along with the smaller KC-135, moved thousands of tons of cargo and thousands of troops in support of the massive Persian Gulf build-up. The KC-10A and the KC-135 conducted about 51,700 separate refueling operations and delivered 125 million gallons (475 million liters) of fuel without missing a single scheduled rendezvous.
The KC-10A acquisition program was directed by the Air Force Systems Command's Aeronautical Systems Division (ASD) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Prime contractor for the design, development and production of the KC-10A is the Long Beach, California-based Douglas Aircraft Company division of McDonnell Douglas Corporation, St. Louis, MO.
Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center provides centralized program management for commercial derivative aircraft including the KC-10. Commercial derivative aircraft are defined as aircraft originally designed for sale on the open market to non-military buyers. These aircraft may be used "as commercially built" or as modified ("missionized") to perform a military role. The program manager provides Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) for whole systems and does not manage Contract Depot Purchased Equipment Repair, even though they deal with commercial derivative aircraft. Program management personnel perform the day-to-day management of CLS contracts, which includes metric collection and analysis. The program manager maintains all their aircraft to Federal Aviation Administration standards. The KC-10 aircraft are subject to USAF Sustainment Executive Management Report (SEMR) reporting requirements.
A single contractor is used as integrator. A fixed price contract with limited award/incentives is used. This allows capture of total cost for an entire weapon system and better positions OC-ALC to assist the Major Air Commands (MAJCOMs) in preparing future budget estimates. The MAJCOMs are responsible for submitting their budget estimates and for obtaining the necessary funding levels. They transfer the money to the program manager who disperses it to pay for contract administration. The program manager in turn furnishes each MAJCOM with information required to make sound fiscal decisions. The current contract was awarded to Boeing through a competitive re-bid process. The contract is for 5 years with 1 year options. The current contract contains contingency/wartime and Drop-In Maintenance (Heavy Maintenance) clauses. The contractor has demonstrated the ability to meet both clauses. The contractor is responsible for crash recovery utilizing a mix of contractor and base assets. The major portions of the contract are fixed costs (landing gear, engines, paint, Contractor Operated and Maintained Base Supply (COMBS) management, and "C" check). OC-ALC employs User Quality Assurance Evaluators and Weapons System Liaison Officers in some cases to help monitor condition of work and contract compliance respectively The current contractor is currently Boeing, who was awarded the contract from Lockheed for 5 years starting 1 October 1998.
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