Anytime, anywhere: KC-10 extenders display global reach in the Pacific

A U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender from Travis Air Force Base, California, refuels a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet over the Pacific Ocean, July 14.

Story and photo by 2nd Lt. Sarah Johnson

60th Air Mobility Wing

Three KC-10 extenders flew from Hawaii and Wake Island Airfield to refuel five C-17 Globe-master IIIs carrying over 300 coalition paratroopers across the Pacific Ocean, July 13.

Having received the gas they needed, the C-17s continued to Australia to successfully conduct Exercise Ultimate Reach, a strategic airdrop mission. The airdrop displayed U.S. capabilities throughout the region, reassured allies and improved combat readiness between joint and coalition personnel.

The aerial refueling also supported Exercise Talisman Saber, a month-long training exercise in Australia between U.S., Canadian and Australian forces that began once paratroopers landed Down Under. The training focused on improving interoperability and relations between the three allies. The KC-10s seamlessly refueled various aircraft over the Pacific Ocean supporting Talisman Saber. Some of those aircraft include U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets and U.S. Air Force KC-10s, among others.

“This is the bread and butter of what we do in the KC-10 world,” said Lt. Col. Stew Welch, 9th ARS commander and the Ultimate Reach tanker mission commander. “We’re practicing mobility, air refueling and interoperability. This is practice for how we go to war.”

Though participation in such a large and complex exercise may seem like a unique occurrence for the aircraft and their aircrews, in actuality, this is done every day, all over the world. For members of the 6th and the 9th Air Refueling Squadrons at Travis Air Force Base, California, the global mission of the KC-10 is evident each time they step onto the tanker. For the rest of the world, it was on full display at Talisman Saber. Ultimate Reach was the most prominent piece of the KC-10’s efforts during Talisman Saber. Despite that demand, the crews continued a full schedule of refueling sorties after landing in Australia, allowing other participating aircraft to complete their missions.

“The KC-10 is essential to the Air Force because we can transport any piece of cargo, equipment and personnel to anywhere in the world…any continent, any country,” said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Cook, 6th ARS instructor boom operator. “We’re able to refuel those jets who have to go answer the mission whatever it may be, or (engage in) humanitarian response.” Additionally, the tanker’s ability to switch between using an advanced aerial refueling boom or a hose and drogue centerline refueling system allows it to refuel a variety of U.S. and allied military aircraft interchangeably, as it demonstrated during Talisman Saber. “When we refueled the C-17s, it helped them get to their location and drop those paratroopers so the world can see them flying out of the aircraft and see those angels coming down,” Cook said. Ultimate Reach and Talisman Saber highlighted the KC-10 fleet as a fighting force, demonstrating the aircraft’s unique warfighting capabilities over a wide array of locations, receivers and flying patterns. “Not only does this kind of exercise demonstrate what we can do, it demonstrates how we do it,” Welch said. “Our own interoperability — not just with the Air Force and the Army but with our coalition partners as well — sends a great message to our allies and those who are not our allies that we can get troops on the ground where and when we please.”

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Category: News