The KC-10A tanker can deliver 200,000 pounds (90,719 kg) of fuel to a receiver 2200 statute miles (3539.8 km) from the home base and return, or it can carry a maximum cargo payload of 169,409 pounds (76,843 kg) a distance of 4370 statute miles (7031 km). Unrefueled ferry range of the KC-lOA is 11,500 statute miles (18,503 km).
The KC-10A is powered by three General Electric CF6-50C2 high bypass-ratio turbofan engines, each generating 52,500 pounds (23,814 kg) of takeoff thrust. Versions of the CF6 engine family are installed on most of the DC-lOs in airline service and have compiled an impressive reliability record. One of the engines is mounted at the base of the tail above the aft fuselage of the KC-10A, and the other two are installed on pylons beneath the wings, one on each side of the fuselage.
Like other intercontinental-range DC-lOs, the tanker/transport is 181 feet 7 inches (55.35 m) in length and has a wingspan of 165 feet 4 inches (50.42 m) and a tail height of 58 feet 1 inch (17.7 m). Gross takeoff weight of the KC-10A is 590,000 pounds (267,619 kg), up from 555,000 pounds (251,701 kg) for the standard intercontinental commercial model.
Design fuel capacity is 356,065 pounds (161,508 kg), including a maximum of 238,565 pounds (108,211 kg) in the standad wing tankage and a maximum of 117,500 pounds (53,297 kg) stored in seven fuel cells below the main deck.
The KC-10A takes full advantage of the inherent capability of the commercial DC-10, retaining some 88 per cent commonality with the commercial aircraft. KC-10A modifications to the commercial DC-10CF include: elimination of most upper deck windows and lower deck cargo doors; provisions for additional crew; a flexible capability for accommodating additional support people; receptacle for in-flight refueling of the KC-10A itself; military avionics; director lights for the receiver aircraft; supplemental fuselage fuel tanks; modernized aerial refueling operator station; hose reel with drogue for refueling Navy and oher probe-equipped aircraft; advanced aerial refueling boom, and an improved cargo handling system.
The KC-10A supplementary fuel tankage system, selected after extensive studies, includes seven unpressurized integral-body fuel cells, four aft of the wing and three forward, all located in underdeck vented cavities. A crashworthy design makes use of keel beams and strategically placed energy absorption material to protect the tanks. Under-fuselage panels permit direct access to each cell for installation, removal, system inspection and maintenance and structural inspection.
The KC-10A'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 KC-10A can be air-refueled by a KC-135 or another KC-10A to increase its delivery range.
The advanced aerial refueling boom designed by McDonnell Douglas offers significant advantages in operational safety, efficiency and fuel-flow rates. It features larger disconnect and control envelopes, independent disconnect capability, an active control system with digital fly-by-wire controls, automatic load alleviation, position rate sensing to assure disconnect within control limits, precision hand controllers with low force requirements and operator-selectable disconnect limits. An additional feature in the KC-10A refueling system is the installation of the hose reel and the capability to change from hose to boom refueling, and vice versa, while in flight.
The aerial refueling operator's station in the KC-10A, located aft of the rearward lower fuselage fuel tanks, features improvements in comfort, viewing capability and environment. Instead of assuming the prone position required in current tankers, the refueling operator sits in an aft-facing crew seat. Station equipment includes handy refueling controls, a wide viewing window facing the aft "customer" position and additional periscopic viewing arrangements for traffic management. Accessible from the upper deck, the station is pressurized and has independent thermal control, a quiet environment and an arrangement suited for both training and operational missions. While refueling requires only one operator, two additional seats are provided to accommodate an instructor and an observer.
For its cargo-carrying assignments, the KC-10A has a total usable cargo space exceeding 12,000 cubic feet (346 cu m) in its spacious cabin. The cabin has a maximum width of almost 19 feet (5.7 m), ceiling height of 8.5 feet (2.5 m) and a floor area of 2200 square feet (304.25 sq m). In all-cargo configuration, the KC-10A acccommodates 25 standard 88 x 108-inch (223.5 by 274.3 cm) cargo pallets in the cabin with aisles down both sides, or 27 pallets with a single aisle.
To facilitate the handling of cargo, the KC-10A is equipped with a versatile system to accommodate a broad spectrum of loads. The system, adapted in part from the commercial DC-10, has been enhanced with the addition of powered rollers, powered winch provisions for assistance in fore and aft movement of cargo, an extended ball mat area to permit loading of larger items, and cargo pallet couplers that allow palletizing of cargo items too large for a single pallet. The features, plus the large 102 by 140-inch (259 by 355 cm) cargo door that swings upward on the left side of the forward fuselage for loading and unloading, give the KC-10A the capability to transport a significant portion of the tactical support equipment of fighter squadrons.
Several configurations exist for personnel and crew accommodations. One arrangement is for the crew of five, plus six seats for additional crew and four bunks for crew rest, with an environmental curtain between bunks and the cargo net. The same area also has space for the installation of 14 more seats for support people. In another arrangement, the bunks, environmental curtain and cargo net can be shifted rearward, making room for 55 more support people, along with the necessary utility, lavatory and stowage modules, raising the personnel capacity to a total of 80 crew and support people. Although all eight of the DC-10 upper deck passenger doors are installed as standard, three are deactivated. Normal entry and exit are through the two forward passenger doors on each side, and the aft right-hand door is available as a ground emergency exit for people in the aerial refueling operator's station.
An October 4, 2004, AFPN story reported that normally, the KC-10 Extender, is used for moving as many as 65 passengers and as much as 170,000 pounds of cargo while conducting air-refueling missions. While the 59 KC-10s in service as of late 2004 have the capability to support aeromedical-evacuation missions, none had yet been flown with the patient support pallet installed on the aircraft. However, as the result of a special aeromedical-evacuation from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to South Korea, a KC-10 was specially configured to use the patient support pallet, a specially configured pallet used specifically for aeromedical transport that's capable of sustaining the patient during flight. This marked the first scheduled mission to use the pallet onboard the KC-10. That mission began at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and transitioned through Andrews AFB, Md., where the patient support pallet was loaded. From there, the mission continued to Offutt AFB, Neb., and on to California where the patient and his mother were picked up. The mission ended after landing late the following evening in Seoul.
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