|The KC-135 Stratotanker
provides the core aerial
refueling capability for the United States Air Force and has excelled
in this role for more than 50 years. This unique asset enhances the Air
Force's capability to accomplish its primary missions of Global Reach
and Global Power. It also provides aerial refueling support to Air
Force, Navy and Marine Corps and allied nation aircraft. The KC-135 is
also capable of transporting litter and ambulatory patients using
patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.
Four turbofans, mounted under 35-degree swept wings, power the KC-135
to takeoffs at gross weights up to 322,500 pounds. Nearly all internal
fuel can be pumped through the flying boom, the KC-135's primary fuel
transfer method. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue, attached to and
trailing behind the flying boom, may be used to refuel aircraft fitted
with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the Multipoint
Refueling System or MPRS. MPRS configured aircraft are capable of
refueling two receiver aircraft simultaneously from special "pods"
mounted on the wingtips. One crewmember, known as the boom
stationed in the rear of the plane and controls the boom during
in-flight air refueling. A cargo deck above the refueling system can
hold a mixed load of passengers and cargo. Depending on fuel storage
configuration, the KC-135 can carry up to 83,000 pounds of
Air Mobility Command manages an inventory of more than 481
Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard
fly 294 in support of AMC's mission.
The Boeing 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 732-plane
fleet. 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-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.
Of the original KC-135A's, more than 415 have been modified with new
CFM-56 engines produced by CFM-International. The re-engined tanker,
designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more
fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to
operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.
Under another modification program, 157 Air Force Reserve and Air
National Guard tankers were re-engined with the 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 offload 20 percent more fuel.
Through the years, the KC-135 has been altered to do other jobs ranging
from flying command post missions to reconnaissance. RC-135s are used
for special reconnaissance and Air Force Materiel Command's NKC-135A's
are flown in test programs. Air Combat Command operates the OC-135 as
an observation platform in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty.
The KC-135R/T model aircraft continue to undergo life-cycle upgrades to
expand its capabilities and improve its reliability. Among these are
improved communications, navigation, auto-pilot and surveillance
equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs.