The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is a military aerial refueling aircraft that was developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype, alongside the Boeing 707 airliner.

Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker "1956"

RoleAerial refuelling and transport aircraft
National originUnited States
First flight31 August 1956
IntroductionJune 1957
StatusIn service
Primary usersUnited States Air Force
French Air Force
Turkish Air Force
Singapore Air Force
Number built803
Developed fromBoeing 367-80
VariantsBoeing NC-135

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Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

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Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is a military aerial refueling aircraft that was developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype, alongside the Boeing 707 airliner. It is the predominant variant of the C-135 Stratolifter family of transport aircraft. The KC-135 was the US Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97 Stratofreighter. The KC-135 was initially tasked with refueling strategic bombers, but it was used extensively in the Vietnam War and later conflicts such as Operation Desert Storm to extend the range and endurance of US tactical fighters and bombers.


The KC-135R has four turbofan engines, mounted under 35-degree swept wings,[18] which power it to takeoffs at gross weights up to 322,500 pounds (146,300 kg). Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the tanker’s 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. This apparatus is significantly more unforgiving of pilot error in the receiving aircraft than conventional trailing hose arrangements; an aircraft so fitted is also incapable of refueling by the normal flying boom method until the attachment is removed. A boom operator stationed in the rear of the aircraft controls the boom while lying prone. 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 (38,000 kg) of cargo.

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Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker "1956""

Like its sibling, the commercial Boeing 707 jet airliner, the KC-135 was derived from the Boeing 367-80 jet transport “proof of concept” demonstrator, which was commonly called the “Dash-80”. The KC-135 is similar in appearance to the 707, but has a narrower fuselage and is shorter than the 707. The KC-135 predates the 707, and is structurally quite different from the civilian airliner. Boeing gave the future KC-135 tanker the initial designation Model 717


  • Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot and boom operator; some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator.)
  • Capacity: up to 80 passengers / 83,000 lb (38,000 kg)
  • Length: 136 ft 3 in (41.53 m)
  • Wingspan: 130 ft 10 in (39.88 m)
  • Height: 41 ft 8 in (12.70 m)
  • Empty weight: 98,392 lb (44,630 kg)
  • Gross weight: 297,000 lb (134,717 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 322,500 lb (146,284 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 200,000 lb (90,718 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × CFM International F108-CF-100 turbofan engines, 21,600 lbf (96.2 kN) thrust  

    • Maximum speed: 504 kn (580 mph, 933 km/h)
    • Maximum speed: Mach 0.9
    • Cruise speed: 460.5 kn (529.9 mph, 852.8 km/h) at 30,000 ft (9,144 m)
    • Range: 1,303.5 nmi (1,500.0 mi, 2,414.1 km) with 150,000 lb (68,039 kg) of transferable fuel
    • Ferry range: 9,572 nmi (11,015 mi, 17,727 km)
    • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
    • Rate of climb: 4,900 ft/min (25 m/s)

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Between 1993 and 2003, the amount of KC-135 depot maintenance work doubled, and the overhaul cost per aircraft tripled.[29] In 1996, it cost $8,400 per flight hour for the KC-135, and in 2002 this had grown to $11,000. The Air Force's 15-year estimates project further significant cost growth through fiscal year 2017. KC-135 fleet operations and support costs are estimated to grow from about $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2003 to $5.1 billion (2003 dollars) in fiscal year 2017, an increase of over 130 percent, which represents an annual growth rate of about 6.2 percent.