US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Sean Evans
The first of 59 KC-10 Extender aerial refueling tankers was retired by the Air Force on July 13, with aircraft #86-0036 being sent off to the service's "boneyard" in Arizona.
Congress approved the first KC-10 retirements during the 2020 fiscal year, setting the stage for what the Air Force says is replacement by the new KC-46A Pegasus tanker.
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, New Jersey — The 305th and 514th Air Mobility Wings bid farewell to the first KC-10 Extender set for retirement during a ceremony July 13 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
The ceremony recognized the aircraft for its contributions to the Air Force over the span of more than 33 years of service, and marked the first retirement of 59 Extenders intended for eventual replacement by the KC-46A Pegasus.
"Today, we solemnly, and with an immense amount of pride, say 'farewell' to the first KC-10 in the McGuire fleet to make its journey to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group — more commonly known as the 'Boneyard,'" said US Air Force Col. Scott Wiederholt, 305th Air Mobility Wing commander.
The aircraft was the first of three identified KC-10s from the Air Force's Backup-Aircraft Inventory that were congressionally approved for retirement during Fiscal Year 2020.
Following the ceremony, the aircraft was flown to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, where it will continue to support the remaining Extenders with spare parts as they are flown for several years while the KC-46A is integrated into Air Mobility Command's Total Force tanker enterprise.
"This aircraft, like all the aircraft in our KC-10 fleet, has served honorably and provided life-saving fuel to warfighters executing global reach," Wiederholt said. "[The aircraft] ensured that all missions, whether combat, re-supply or humanitarian, were executed in a manner like no other nation in the world is capable of doing."
According to the 305th AMW historian Stuart Lockhart, the aircraft, tail number 86-0036, originally entered service at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, in December 1986. After its involvement in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the aircraft temporarily relocated to Travis AFB, California, before finding its permanent home at JBMDL in 1997.
Altogether, the aircraft flew 33,017 flight hours supporting missions in six different continents and refueled more than 125,000 aircraft from 25 different countries, Lockhart said. He also stated that nearly 11,000 aircrew members have flown the aircraft, while another 12,000 maintainers took care of it.
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Sean Evans
"Airmen of both the 305th and the 514th have flown this airplane in the face of our nation's enemies," said US Air Force Col. Thomas Pemberton, 514th Air Mobility Wing commander. "Without fail, they enabled the strategic effects of combatant commanders, extended the powerful reach of the National Command Authorities and enabled soldiers and Marines in enemy contact a safe haven as KC-10s refueled their air support and air cover overhead."
For nearly four decades, KC-10s have helped secure global reach for America, providing in-flight refueling to US and coalition aircraft, from Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm to Operation Inherent Resolve.
The retirement comes as the Air Force begins preparing for integrating the KC-46 into the Total Force tanker enterprise. Select portions of the legacy tanker fleet will be gradually divested, which allows for the recapitalization of the aging tanker fleet, while also maintaining its aerial refueling capability and capacity for the warfighter.
"Thank you for your dedication to this mission, aircraft and to all the Airmen who played a role in ensuring its prominent place in the finest Air Force in the world," Wiederholt said. "This is an exciting time to be part of our Air Force, and I look forward to watching this total force team soar to new heights in the coming years."
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