US Air Force KC-10 Cockpits To Be Upgraded By Boeing


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US Air Force KC-10 Cockpits To Be Upgraded By Boeing

By Daniel Baxter

June 24, 2010 - Boeing announced that it has received a $216 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to upgrade the service's 59-jet KC-10 tanker fleet with a new communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system.

The KC-10 upgrade will enable the fleet to comply with the forecasted 2015 CNS/ATM Federal Aviation Administration International Civil Aviation Organization standards, which allow shared access within both civil and military airspace, enabling tanker refueling operations worldwide.

"As air traffic continues to increase, modern CNS/ATM systems become essential for communicating precise flight data and obtaining the most direct routing," said Mike Harris, Boeing vice president of Weapon Systems Modernization. "This upgrade is critical to the Air Force for pilots' safety, mission effectiveness and lower operational costs."


The five-year contract draws on design and development work performed by Boeing Defense, Space & Security and Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The contract will be managed at the Boeing Long Beach, Calif., facility. The first airplane will be modified and flight-tested in 2012 at the company's San Antonio facility. Boeing will complete and deliver the final KC-10 modification in 2015.

CNS/ATM stands for Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Systems for Air Traffic Management. The system uses digital technologies, including satellite systems, and varying levels of automation to achieve a seamless global Air Traffic Management system.

The KC-10 Extender is an air-to-air tanker aircraft in service with the United States Air Force derived from the civilian DC-10-30 airliner. The KC-10 was the second consecutive McDonnell Douglas transport aircraft to be selected by the US Air Force following the C-9 Nightingale. McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing in 1997.

Introduced in 1981, there were 60 KC-10 built through 1987 at a cost of $88.4 million US. The KC-10 was delivered to the USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) (then in control of AAR assets) from 1981 to 1987. SAC had KC-10 Extenders in service from 1981?92, when they were re-assigned to the newly established Air Mobility Command.


In the AAR role, the KC-10s have operated largely in the strategic refueling of large number of tactical aircraft on ferry flights and the refueling of other strategic transport aircraft. Conversely, the KC-135 fleet has operated largely in the in-theater tactical role. The KC-10 fleet facilitated the deployment of tactical, strategic, and transport aircraft to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield.

There are 59 KC-10 Extenders currently in service. The KC-10 has a significantly larger fuel capacity than the Air Force's other tanker plane, the KC-135 with over 440 in service in 2009. The USAF's KC-10s are stationed primarily at Travis AFB, California and McGuire AFB, New Jersey. USAF KC-10s have been in heavy use supporting military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2009. They perform refueling missions the bulk of the time with cargo and personnel transport also conducted.


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