The Invisible Heroes (the KC-10 Extender) March 01 2016
The KC-10 Extender is the flying gas station that allows America to conduct operation anywhere in the world. It has taken part in virtually all major air operations. This is not just about air refueling fighter-bombers and attack planes, but also heavy bombers like the B-1, B-2 and B-52, moreover it is not just about enabling an air strike but also allowing for rapid deployment of materiel and personnel.
As a kid I remember watching the news and absorbing every bit of information about Operation El Dorado Canyon, the Libyan bombing in 1986; where F-111s had to fly from England to Libya rounding continental Europe (Spain and Portugal) and passing through the Straights of Gibraltar. Of course my attention was on the F-111s as they landed back in England, but now that I am older (and a bit wiser) I see that it was not just about 24 F-111s (I find different numbers for different sources) but a whole cast of supporting characters, both men and machine ,that make the whole operation possible.
Each way of the trip required 4 refuels. Of course, the KC-10 was not the only tanker, there were also KC-135 (the Boeing 707 versions).