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'Bulky 42' sits on the Travis ramp patiently waiting for us to board her. Our mission will see us head out in a northeasterly direction with 'Bulky 64' towards Sacramento, where we will join up with our C-5 receiver aircraft.

As part of United States Air Force Air Mobility Command (AMC), an organization that provides global air mobility to the nation's armed forces, the 60th AMW maintains a work force of approximately 7000 active-duty military, 3500 civilian and Department of Defense personnel, and more than 3,000 reservists assigned to the associate 349th AMW, who combine with their active duty and civilian counterparts to form a fully integrated team. Travis currently has 26 Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy, 27 McDonnell Douglas      KC-10A Extender, and 13 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft on strength, with Travis being the only base operating all three types.

In October 1964 Travis received the first Lockheed C-141A Starlifter delivered to the Air Force, the USAF’s first jet-powered strategic transport. Military Air Transport Service (MATS) resumed command of Travis on 1 July 1958 - the 1501st Air Transport Wing (Heavy) becoming the host unit. On 1 January 1966, MATS was redesignated as Military Airlift Command (MAC) and on 6 January 1966, the 60th Military Airlift Wing (60 MAW) replaced the 1501st ATW as the host unit. In 1969, the 349th Military Airlift Wing (349 MAW) of the Air Force Reserve (AFRES) was established as an ‘Associate Wing’ to the 60 MAW, with both units sharing the same aircraft and eventually seamlessly mixing flight crews, maintenance crews and other support personnel.

349th Air Mobility Wing (349 AMW) respectively. In August 2006, Travis received its first C-17A Globemaster aircraft - aircraft number #06-6154 ‘Spirit of Solano’ flying its first mission to Europe the following day.

Looking to the future, Travis AFB has been a key player in every major contingency from World War II to the present day, and is set to receive 24 Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aircraft to replace its KC-10s, with the first delivery scheduled for July 2023 - the final KC-46 scheduled to arrive by 2025. To integrate the KC-46 into Travis, a Program Integration Office Team, spearheaded by Lieutenant Colonel Theo Fisher, is actively working to transition to the Pegasus. Chief among their properties is to construct a new maintenance hangar, which will be able to accommodate up to three KC-46s and any other aircraft in the AMC inventory except the C-5. The hangar is designed to provide maintainers with major repair capabilities not otherwise possible in outdoor flightline operations. Additionally, the facility will be equipped with modern amenities such as an overhead fall restraint system, KC-46 boom repair station and wing aerial refuelling pod overhaul and storage areas.

On 24 October 1970, the then assigned 75th Military Airlift Squadron (MAS) received its first Lockheed C-5A Galaxy #68-0221, with a second squadron of C-5s (22nd MAS) activating in February 1972.
In 1992, the reorganization of the Air Force saw Military Airlift Command (MAC) renamed as Air Mobility Command (AMC), and in September 1994 it received its first KC-10A Extender when the 9th ARS transferred from March AFB - the addition of an aerial refuelling mission into its strategic airlift mission seeing the 60th and 349th Airlift Wings redesignated as the 60th Air Mobility Wing (60 AMW) and the

The 349th AMW Reserve component is grouped similarly to a frontline unit – including Operations, Maintenance, Mission Support, and Medical groups. The Air Force Reserve augments the active-duty component by flying and maintaining the same front-line aircraft, with almost 90% of Reservists serving at least 40 days per year, with many also maintaining civilian jobs. These so-called 'citizen airmen’ have become a key component in US national defence by filling operational requirements when there is a shortfall of active military personnel to fulfil those missions. The 349th Operations Group has seven squadrons, with the 312th AS operating the C-5, the 70th and 79th ARS operating the KC-10, and the 301st AS with the C-17. Completing the Operations Group is the 349th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 349th Operations Support Squadron and the 349th Mission Support Squadron.

Handling more cargo and passengers than any other stateside military facility, Travis Air Force Base started out in 1942 as an airfield with a handful of small buildings, and was originally called Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base. Between 1943 and 1958, the base came under the control of Air Transport Command and Strategic Air Command, before being renamed Travis Air Force Base in 1951, after Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, who was killed when a B-29 Superfortress bomber crashed shortly after take-off on 5 August 1950. 

against Libya. The KC-10 also played a key role in the build up to Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the aircraft proving vital in the rapid airlift of troops, equipment, and aircraft to the Persian Gulf. In May 1999, KC-10As deployed to Europe to support NATO’s air campaign during Operation Allied Force. The type has also flown missions in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in the Middle East. Now in its twilight, the KC-10A fleet has already been reduced in size as McGuire AFB has all but relinquished its fleet, the first aircraft retiring in July 2020 and placed into storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. By 2023, just 26 aircraft are scheduled to remain in service, all with the 60th AMW at Travis.

Boeing C-17A Globemaster III

Arriving at Travis AFB ‘s Visitor Center at around 07.00am, I am greeted by Capt. Jasmine Jacobs from Public Affairs, and after obtaining my Media Pass, we head off to Travis Base Ops where we are met by Capt. Miguel Cruz for our preflight briefing. Myself and the crew of ‘Bulky 42’ go through the planning process, before heading out to Spot 271 on the Travis ramp, where our KC-10A Extender, #85-0029, patiently sits in the California sunshine awaiting its crew. Scheduled for a 09.30am take-off, we get the news through that we are delayed for around an hour, having to co-ordinate our take-off with our receiver aircraft (C-5M callsign Cage 07) and another KC-10 (callsign Bulky 64), which has developed a generator issue. Fortunately, within 15-20 minutes Bulky 64 has resolved the issue and is good to go – just a few minutes later we are heading out to Runway 21R for a standard departure.

Ever since flying began, there has been a need to enhance the operational range of military aircraft. The first air-to-air refuelling took place way back in 1923, but even though it is now a tried and tested day-to-day occurrence, the dangers of two aircraft flying in close-proximity cannot be understated. Although the Extender has a considerable cargo-carrying capability, it is rarely used, its primary role being to provide air-to-air refuelling. During our time with 60 AMW we had the opportunity to fly with a mixed crew from the 6th and 9th Air Refueling Squadrons on board a KC-10A Extender, where we would hook up with a C-5M Super Galaxy from Travis’ resident 22nd Airlift Squadron. This is how the day went -

modified C-5Cs were delivered - the modification including removal of the troop compartment, a redesigned aft pressure door and bulkhead, and widening of the aft doors so the aircraft could carry the NASA space shuttle’s large cargo container. Both C-5Cs were assigned to Travis AFB. The C-5M is expected to remain in service until 2040, has a maximum a cargo load of 281,001lbs (127,460kg), an unrefuelled range of approximately 5,524 miles with 120,000lbs of cargo; and 7,000nm with no cargo on board. The crew consists of a Pilot, Co-pilot, two Flight Engineers and three Loadmasters.



Super Galaxies. A total of 52 C-5 Galaxy aircraft were upgraded to C-5M Super Galaxy standard (One C-5A, 49 C-5Bs, and two C-5Cs).

The crew of 'Bulky 42' - Capt. Miguel Cruz                  (Pilot/Aircraft Commander)
                                      1st Lt. Rodrigo Orellana         (Co-pilot)
                                      MSgt. Deidre Rodriguez        (Flight Engineer)
                                      TSgt. Jeremiah Mohr             (Flight Engineer)
                                      SSgt. Oman Herrera              (Flight Engineer)
                                      TSgt. Uriel Escamilla             (Boom Operator)
                                      TSgt. James Coomes            (Boom Operator)
                                      SSgt. Edwin Gomez Rivera   (Boom Operator)
                                      SrA. Christian Otero              (Boom Operator)

The McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender took to the skies for the first time on 12 July 1980, with the first of 60 KC-10s being handed over to the USAF at Barksdale Air Force Base in March 1981. Ordered to supplement the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, the KC-10 is a militarised and extensively-modified version of the commercial DC-10-30CF airliner. Configured as a tanker aircraft, the KC-10 also provides a global mobility capability. When supporting the overseas deployment of a fighter unit, the KC-10A can simultaneously provide in-flight refuelling for the combat aircraft and carry the deployment’s support personnel and associated equipment in its interior.  

Following a study that showed the C-5 fleet still had 80% of the airframe service-life remaining, Air Mobility Command began an Avionics Modernization Program in 1998, which included upgrading the avionics, as well as upgrading the navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management systems to maintain compliance with national and international airspace requirements. It also added new safety equipment and installed a new autopilot system. Another part of the C-5 modernization plan was a comprehensive Reliability Enhancement and Re-engineering Program (RERP) - the modified C-5A/B/Cs becoming C-5M

Having conducted number of successful hook-ups, with two of the Boomers on -board, Cage 07 bids us farewell and drops away from the tanker before we head back to Travis. Having the opportunity to sit in the ‘Jump Seat’ again on landing, as I did on take-off, gives me a perfect view of the crew on the flightdeck. With a comfortable flight home, 1st Lt. Rodrigo Orellana knocks off the auto-pilot and lines up the KC-10 with Runway 21L at Travis, before easing the old girl back onto the runway.

The Air Force originally programmed to buy 120 C-17s, but due to the unrivalled success of the aircraft to accomplish various mobility missions, additional aircraft were acquired, resulting in a final fleet of 223. Almost two years after Major General Thomas Kane landed the first C-17 Globemaster III at Travis, the last of 13 Globemasters (serial 07-7179) to be stationed at Travis arrived on 5 November 2008. Named Spirit of Travis, AMC Commander, General Arthur Lichte, had the honour of landing the aircraft. #07-7179 is seen right on the Travis flightline in October 2022 awaiting its next mission.

The C-5M Super Galaxy strategic transport aircraft is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, its primary mission to transport cargo and personnel for the Department of Defense. Lockheed delivered the first C-5A Galaxy in June 1970, with a total of 81 A-versions built - later supplemented by 50 C-5Bs, with improved wings, simplified landing gear, and updated avionics. Upgraded General Electric TF-39-GE-1C turbofan engines were also added, delivering a 22% increase in thrust, a 30% shorter take-off roll, and a 58% faster climb rate than the standard C-5, allowing significantly more cargo to be carried over longer distances. In fiscal year 1989, two space-cargo

In the photo above, a 60 Air Mobility Wing KC-10A Extender sits in front of the Travis control tower. The KC-10 is the most numerous aircraft at Travis - but not for much longer. With the old girl gradually being withdrawn from service, the Extenders space on the Travis apron will soon be taken up by the new Boeing KC-46A Pegasus.

The Globemaster is the most flexible cargo aircraft in the airlift force - capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo, performing tactical airlift and airdrop missions, or transporting litters and patients during aeromedical evacuations. The C-17 is also able to rapidly project and sustain an effective combat force close to any potential battle area. The aircraft is operated by a crew of three (pilot, co-pilot, and loadmaster), reducing manpower requirements, risk exposure and long-term operating costs. Cargo is loaded onto the C-17 through a large aft ramp and door system that accommodates virtually all the Army’s air-transportable equipment such as the 69-ton M1 Abrams main battle tank, armoured vehicles, trucks, and trailers. Additionally, the cargo floor has rollers that can be flipped from a flat floor to accommodate wheeled or tracked vehicles to rollerized-conveyers to accommodate palletized cargo.  The C-17 is designed to airdrop 102 paratroopers with their accompanying equipment.

The C-5 Galaxy's nickname - bestowed upon it by the men and women who maintain the USAF’s fleet is 'FRED'  - one I won't discuss here as it is not very flattering - so Google it! Despite that, FRED has served the U.S. Air Force admirably and continues to haul  loads that no other airlifter is capable of.

boom connects with the receiver aircraft but no fuel is transferred), a technique regularly used to ensure Boomers maintain their readiness.


A Tunner 60k aircraft loader in action. Also known as a K-Loader, the Tunner is built by DRS Technologies, and is a mobile vehicle system that can transport up to six cargo pallets at up to 23 mph. Its deck elevates from 39 inches to 18.5ft in height, employing a powered conveyor system capable of loading pallets directly into the aircraft’s hold, each pallet weighing up to 5,000lbs.

(AFRC), and was first activated as a reserve unit at Hamilton Air Force Base, California, in June 1949 as the 349th Troop Carrier Wing. The Wing does not have any aircraft of its own assigned, using aircraft from 60 AMW when required. Associate squadrons are the 70th and 79th Airlift Squadrons (KC-10A), the 301st Airlift Squadron (C-17A), and the 312th Airlift Squadron (C-5M).

As Bulky 64 rotates off Runway 21R, we quickly line up on the EOR and at approximately 10.00am we are in loose formation with the other Extender, heading out in a north-easterly direction via ‘Williams’ and ‘Red Bluff’, before breaking formation to rendezvous with our respective receiver aircraft. Reaching our planned altitude of 26,000ft in Air-to-Air Refuelling Area 7, located northeast of Sacramento, we hook up with our receiver, Super Galaxy #87-0042, to complete several ‘dry’ hook-ups (dry hook-ups are where the

In 1980, the U.S. Air Force identified a requirement for a large transport aircraft that could be refuelled in flight and use unprepared landing fields. On 28th August 1981, McDonnell Douglas won the contract to build what would become the C-17 Globemaster III. Built in Long Beach, California, the C-17 made its maiden flight on 15 September 1991, and the first production model was delivered to Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, on 14 June 1993 - the first squadron of C-17s, the 17th Airlift Squadron, declaring operational capability on 17 January 1995.

The 349th Air Mobility Wing is the largest associate wing in U.S. Air Force Reserve Command

Equipped with the Advanced Aerial Refueling Boom (seen in the image, right), the KC-10A also features a hose and drogue system - allowing the KC-10A to provide fuel to U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps aircraft, and to its NATO allies which use this method. Twenty KC-10s were further modified with the addition of wing-mounted pods (seen in the image below, left), further enhancing the KC-10s aerial refuelling capabilities. The refueling boom is controlled by the boom operator, otherwise known as the Boomer (image below, right) completing the operation from a compartment at the rear of the aircraft. Using a joystick to manoeuvre the refuelling boom.

The KC-10A has a large cargo-loading door which can accept most fighter units support equipment. Powered rollers and winches inside the cargo compartment give the KC-10A a usable cargo space exceeding 12,000 cubic feet, with a maximum width of almost 19ft, ceiling height of 8.5ft and a floor area of 2200 square feet. In an all-cargo configuration, it can accommodate up to 27 standard 88" x 108" (223.5 x 274.3 cm) cargo pallets, or a mix of 17 pallets and 75 passengers. Configured to transport 170,000lb of cargo up to 4,400 miles unrefuelled, it can of course can be extended with its air-to-air refuelling capability.

Maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 170,900 pounds (77,519 kilograms), and its maximum gross take-off weight is 585,000 pounds (265,352 kilograms). With a payload of 164,900 pounds (74,797 kilograms) and an initial cruise altitude of 28,000 feet (8,534 meters), the C-17 has an unrefuelled range of approximately 2,400 nautical miles, at a cruising speed of approximately 450 knots (.74 Mach). The C-17’s design characteristics give it the capability to operate

into and out of short runways and austere airfields carrying large payloads, maximizing the use of commercial off-the-shelf equipment, including Air Force-standardized avionics.



'Out with the old and in with the new' - A Boeing KC-46A Pegasus sits on the Travis ramp, with a KC-10A Extender in the background

The 60th AMW is organized into four groups: Operations, Maintenance, Mission Support and Medical. Additionally, the wing commander has the support of 17 staff agencies. It is the 60th Operations Group which is responsible for the four flying squadrons – the 21st Airlift Squadron (AS) which flies the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III; the 22nd Airlift Squadron which flies the Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy; and the 6th and 9th Air Refueling Squadrons which both fly the McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender.

With the KC-10’s time in the U.S. Air Force coming to an end, the type has seen extensive action, providing support during Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986 - this mission seeing USAF and US Navy combat aircraft conduct airstrikes

a moments notice around the world – the Super Galaxy playing an important role in maintaining global security by constantly providing resources. Cruising at 26,000 feet high above California, the  C-5M (call-sign Cage 07) seen in the photo above is from Travis' resident 22nd Airlift Squadron and shows off the huge size of the Super Galaxy, along with the distinctive T-tail design adopted by its predecessor the C-141 Starlifter, and carried on into the C-5 and the C-17 Globemaster.

in support of national objectives, and to extend the reach of American and allied air power through mid-air refuelling. Wing activity is primarily focused in the Pacific and Indian Ocean area, including Alaska and Antarctica. However, the 60th AMW crews can fly support missions anywhere in the world to fulfil its motto of being "America's First Choice" for providing true global reach.



Throughout the air-to-air refuelling process, the boom operator and pilot of the receiver aircraft are in constant communication with each other, guiding the huge C-5 onto the refuelling boom, whilst at the same time utilising the Pilot Director Indicator (PDI) lights on the lower fuselage of the KC-10. The PDI lights indicate the correct approach for the receiver aircraft, telling the C-5 crew whether they need to move forward or aft as necessary until contact with the boom is successfully completed.

The ability to transport bulky items is the bread and butter of the C-5. Heavy equipment that would normally need to be transported over water can be moved rapidly by air and be off-loaded faster than at a traditional seaport. This has major force projection implications, as combat vehicles and aircraft can be deployed at a

'Force Multiplier' - The KC-10 in Action

Travis Air Force Base 'Gateway to the Pacific'

Whether it’s airlift, aerial refuelling, or humanitarian relief, our history, our jets, and our people are why Team Travis is ‘America’s First Choice’.

The 60th Air Mobility Wing is the largest Air Mobility Wing in the U.S. Air Force in terms of personnel. As the host unit at Travis Air Force Base, the wing handles more cargo and passengers than any other military air terminal in the United States.
Formed 1 July 1948 as the 60th Troop Carrier Wing at Kaufbeuren Air Base, in occupied Germany, the wing was established in accordance with the Hobson Plan organizational structure established by the United States Air Force. Assigned to the new wing was the 60th Troop Carrier Group (60th TCG), which served as its operational aviation component.
As part of Air Mobility Command, the 60th AMW is responsible for strategic airlift and air refuelling missions around the globe. The unit's primary roles are to provide rapid, reliable airlift of American fighting forces anywhere on earth

We would like to thank everyone at 'Team Travis' for their help in enabling us to make this article possible, but especially the crew of Bulky 42 and Capt. Jasmine Jacobs from Travis Public Affairs.

Travis Air Force Base (AFB), home to the 60th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) and its Associate 349th AMW, is located in Fairfield, California, halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco. As the ‘Gateway to The Pacific’ its primary role is to provide rapid, reliable global airlift of American fighting forces in support of national objectives, and extending the reach of American and allied air power through mid-air refuelling. The Wing's activity is primarily focused in the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas, including Alaska and Antarctica, however the aircraft and their crews often fly support missions anywhere around the world in fulfilling its global reach.