As one of the newest aircraft in the AF inventory, the KC-10 requires little maintenance and modifications when compared to older military systems. The KC-10 complies with FAA Stage 3 noise standards. Designed with a service life of 30,000 hours, projected structural service life of the KC-10 extends to 2043. State-of-the-art technology and commonalty with commercial counterparts ensures operations in the near future will remain economical.
The Air Force KC-10 fleet is but a small component of the total worldwide DC-10 fleet. Most first-tier commercial DC-10 operators are forecast to retire their aircraft by 2010. As the commercial fleet reaches maturity, major operators will discontinue DC-10 use, leaving smaller airlines as the only remaining civil users. The first round of commercial retirements by 2010 will undoubtedly impact the economy of future Air Force KC-10 operations. Studies to assess that impact and to reevaluate the economic and structural service life will be required. Because the Air Force KC-10 fleet is flown at much lower utilization rates than its civilian DC-10 counterparts, it will have appreciable structural service life remaining after 2010. If there are not enough first and second-tier airlines operating these aircraft after this date, the commercial logistics tail for KC-10s will shrink, significantly driving up operations and support costs.
According to General Norton A. Schwartz, USAF, Commander, United States Transportation Command, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee "On the State of the Command" March 21, 2007, "The KC-10 fleet remains a viable platform through 2040, but it must be modified to ensure the fleet can operate in the future global airspace environment. To this end, AMC has initiated a KC-10 aircraft modernization program that complies with international airspace requirements, addresses obsolescence concerns, and provides a growth path for future avionics upgrades."
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