The KC-135 Stratotanker's primary mission is to refuel long-range bombers. It also provides aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied aircraft.
The Boeing Military Airplane Company's model 367-80 was the basic
design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A
Stratotanker. In 1954 the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future fleet of 732. The first aircraft flew in August 1956 and the initial-production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, Calif., in June 1957. The last KC-135A was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.
In Southeast Asia, KC-135 Stratotankers made the air war different from all previous aerial conflicts. Mid-air refueling brought far-flung
bombing targets within reach. Combat aircraft, no longer limited by fuel supplies, were able to spend more time in target areas.
The KC-135A's are being modified with new CFM-56 engines produced by CFM-International. The re-engined tanker, designated the KC-135R, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent cheaper to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.
Under another modification program, all Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard tankers were re-engined with TF-33-PW-102 engines. The re-engined tanker, designated the KC-135E, is 14 percent more fuel efficient than the KC-135A and can carry 20 percent more fuel.
With projected modifications, the KC-135 will fly and refuel into the next century. A new aluminum-alloy skin grafted to the underside of the wings will add 27,000 flying hours to the aircraft.
The KC-135 tanker fleet made an invaluable contribution to the success of Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf, flying around-the-clock missions to maintain operability of allied warplanes. The KC-135s form
the backbone of the Air Force tanker fleet, meeting the aerial refueling requirements of bomber, fighter, cargo and reconnaissance forces, as well as the needs of the Navy, Marines and allied nations.
Primary Function: Aerial refueling
Contractor: Boeing Military Airplanes
Power Plant: Four CFM-International F108-CF-100 turbofans
Thrust: 22,224 pounds (10,000.8 kilograms) each engine
Length: 136 feet, 3 inches (40.8 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 4 inches (11.5 meters)
Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.2 meters)
Speed: Maximum speed at 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) 610 mph (Mach 0.93)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,152 meters)
Weight: 119,231 pounds (53,654 kilograms) empty
Max. Takeoff Weight: 322,500 pounds (145,125 kilograms)
Range: 11,192 miles (9,732 nautical miles) with 120,000 pounds (54,000 kilograms) of transfer fuel
Crew: Four or five; up to 80 passengers
Date Deployed: August 1965
Unit Cost: KC-135R, $53 million; KC-135E, $30.6 million; KC-135A, $26.1 million