SOUTHWEST ASIA — Fly, fight and win: words that are etched throughout Air Force history from the countless sorties flown in combat operations around the globe. Today, that legacy continues in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
But flying, fighting and winning is just one part of an even larger mission, as some aircraft will require air refueling support to put munitions on target. Those tankers, like the KC-10 Extender, can’t reach the fight if they aren’t maintained to the highest standard.
Every Extender undergoes inspection, which ensures essential parts are operational to include: hydraulics systems, alternating current and direct current systems, landing gear, systems, fire protection, generators, air condition and heating and oxygen systems.
“We conduct preflight, post-flight and thru-flight inspections on the KC-10,” said Staff Sgt. Michael, a Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “Each inspection is extensive and a little different, but they all make sure the airframe is ready for the next sortie and able to support others in the air.”
Measuring at just over 181 feet in length, with a wingspan of 165 feet, it takes approximately three to four hours to complete an inspection and fix minor repairs on the aircraft. The Extender requires several specialized maintainers to ensure it is mission ready.
“The crew chiefs do a lot of the basic maintenance on the aircraft; we take care of a lot of the internal and external pieces that make the jet operational,” said Tech. Sgt. Samantha, an EAMS electrical and environmental technician. “It’s exciting to troubleshoot problems that we’re not used to seeing. I love digging in to the systems and seeing how things are interconnected, learning about things you never thought went together.”
The KC-10 Extender is an advanced tanker and cargo aircraft designed to provide increased global mobility for U.S. armed forces. It can refuel fighters and simultaneously carry passengers and palletized cargo.
“It’s a multifunctional aircraft; we can move an entire aircraft maintenance unit from one location to another,” Michael said. “We can refuel six fighters and haul 75 personnel and their support equipment across country. We can do it all at once instead of using multiple airplanes.”
The KC-10 Extender is a force multiplier equipped with an aerial boom, hose and drogue centerline refueling system capable of resupplying U.S. armed forces and allied aircraft. It can carry 356,000 pounds of fuel. Without maintainers providing round the clock support to the Extender, aircraft wouldn’t be able to refuel or make it to the fight.
“One of the most important parts of this aircraft is the boom, which can pass 1,100 gallons of fuel per minute to other aircraft,” Michael said. “We have to make sure that all the hardware and parts are still intact and that nothing is corroded or broken. That boom is the reason others can get to the engagement.”
The ability to maintain and keep tankers in the air has enabled coalition forces to drop over 4,000 weapons on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets.
“Everybody’s job is important; we need everyone to get the aircraft off the ground,” Samantha said. “It’s one of the most challenging airframes I’ve worked on since I’ve been in. It keeps me on my toes. We can do so much more than any other platform in the Air Force. I have a lot of pride in my aircraft. I love it.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to safety and security reasons, last names and unit designators were removed.