Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is a military aerial refueling aircraft. It and the Boeing 707 airliner were developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype. The KC-135 was the US Air Force's first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97 Stratotanker. The Stratotanker was initially tasked to refuel strategic bombers, but 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-135 entered service with the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1957; it is one of six military fixed-wing aircraft with over 50 years of continuous service with its original operator. The KC-135 is supplemented by the larger KC-10. Despite increased maintenance costs, studies conclude many of the aircraft could be flown until 2040. The aircraft will eventually be replaced by the Boeing KC-46.

Role Aerial refuelling and transport
National origin United States
Manufacturer Boeing
First flight 31 August 1956
Introduction June 1957
Retired KC-135E: 2009
Status Active service
Primary users United States Air Force
French Air Force
Republic of Singapore Air Force
Turkish Air Force
Produced 1954–1965
Number built 803
Unit cost US$39.6 million (FY98 constant dollars)
Developed from Boeing 367-80
Variants Boeing NC-135

 

Design

Flight deck of KC-135R; instrument panel has been modified under the Pacer-CRAG program

The KC-135R has four turbofan engines, mounted under 35-degree swept wings, 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. 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.

Specifications (KC-135R)

Tail of an Air Force Reserve Command KC-135R tanker showing refueling boom
Boom-drogue adapter

Data from USAF Fact Sheet

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3: pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. (Some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator.)
  • Capacity: 37 passengers
  • Payload: 83,000 lb (37,600 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)
  • Wing area: 2,433 ft² (226 m²)
  • Empty weight: 98,466 lb (44,663 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 297,000 lb (135,000 kg)
  • Useful load: 200,000 lb (90,700 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 322,500 lb (146,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × CFM International CFM56 (F108-CF-100) turbofan, 21,634 lbf (96.2 kN) each
  • Maximum Fuel Load: 200,000 lb (90,719 kg)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 580 mph (933 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 530 mph (853 km/h) at 30,000 feet (9,144 m)
  • Range: 1,500 mi (2,419 km) with 150,000 lb (68,039 kg) of transfer fuel
  • Ferry range: 11,015 mi (17,766 km)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,200 m)
  • Rate of climb: 4,900 ft/min (1,490 m/min)

Source

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