On a dreary gray day in late June, Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst (JB MDL) sadly said goodbye to a true U.S. Air Force legend and workhorse.
Tail number 84-0188, one of sixty KC-10s that has served in the U.S. Air Force, departed JB MDL, bound for Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and its future home at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, known as the “Boneyard” on Jun. 22, 2023.
It has been a monumental and almost 30-year career for the KC-10 Extender at the New Jersey base, starting back in 1994 with tail number 79-0434, arriving at the base. At peak usage, McGuire saw thirty-two KC-10’s assigned to their fleet, serving during that time as a faithful “mission partner” to its aircrew and maintainers.
On Jun. 21, one day prior to the final departure of 84-0188, the Joint Base conducted a ceremony where hundreds of Airmen and Airwomen gathered to celebrate the “Retiring of a Legacy”. The keynote speaker at the event was Lt. Gen. James A. Jacobson, deputy commander of the Pacific Air Forces. Lt. Gen. Jacobson who flew KC-10’s previously was one of the pilots making up the mission crew for the flight to Davis-Monthan. In his keynote speech, Lt. Gen. Jacobson mentioned that the legacy of the KC-10 Extender is associated with “Projecting America’s airpower, standing watch over America and delivering hope”.
Upon reviewing some of the statistics belonging to tail number 84-0188, you will begin to appreciate the incredible versatility and utility of this airframe. This Extender has flown a total of 33,017 flight hours supporting combat and worldwide missions in six out of seven continents. The aircraft refueled over 125,000 U.S. and coalition receivers from twenty-five different countries. During its service life nearly 11,000 aircrew members have flown this aircraft and over 12,000 maintainers have kept this aircraft airborne.
The list of military operations this KC-10 has served is equally impressive. It has been involved in conflicts since Operation Eldorado Canyon against Libya in 1986. It was instrumental in supporting the Global War on Terror, Operation Allies Refuge and the Kabul evacuation in August 2021. NATO efforts in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, as well as to secure lasting defeat of ISIS with Operation Inherent Resolve, and Operation Noble Eagle, military operations related to homeland security of the United States and Canada.
“It will take the work of several aircraft in order to equal the capabilities of one single KC-10”, says Lt. Col. Adam Waite, a fifteen year veteran, of the KC-10 with 3500 hours in the jet, currently with the 78th Air Refueling Squadron at the Joint Base. Lt. Col. Waite will sorely miss the KC-10, as the 78th ARS is now flying the KC-10’s replacement, the KC-46 Pegasus.
In the end, Lt. Col. Waite’s words ring true. The KC-10 can carry more than 356,000 pounds of fuel, (almost twice as much as the KC-135, and nearly 170,000 pounds of cargo, which nearly equals the C-17. The closing notes on the two day “KC-10 Departure Ceremony” event booklet sum it up perfectly, “There is no corner of the globe left untouched by the legacy of America’s Global Extender”.