KC-135 Stratotanker

The BlackbirdMilitary AircraftMuseumsImage GalleryGroom LakeLinks

The KC-135 Stratotanker's primary mission is air refueling. This asset greatly strengthens the USAF's capability to accomplish its mission of Global Engagement.

Four turbofans, mounted under 35-degree swept wings, power the KC-135 to takeoffs at gross weights up to 322,500 pounds. Almost all internal fuel can be pumped through the tanker's flying boom, the KC-135's primary fuel transfer method.

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 cargo.

Based on the design of the Boeing 707, the USAF purchased the first 29 KC-135s in 1954. The first aircraft flew in August 1956 and the initial production KC-135 was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, CA, in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the USAF in 1965. 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. Over the next few years, the aircraft will undergo numerous upgrades to expand its capabilities and improve its reliability.

KC-135 Specifications
Primary FunctionAerial refueling
Prime ContractorThe Boeing Company
Power PlantKC-135R/T, Four CFM-International CFM-56 turbofan engines; KC-135E, Four Pratt and Whitney TF-33-PW-102 turbofan engines
ThrustKC-135R, 21,634 pounds each engine; KC-135E, 18,000 pounds each engine
Length136 feet, 3 inches (41.53 meters)
Height41 feet, 8 inches (12.7 meters)
Wingspan130 feet, 10 inches (39.88 meters)
Speed530 miles per hour at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)
Ceiling50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight322,500 pounds (146,285 kilograms)
Maximum Transfer Fuel Load200,000 pounds (90,719 kilograms)
Maximum Cargo Capability83,000 pounds (37,648 kilograms)
Range1,500 miles (2,419 kilometers) with 150,000 pounds (68,039 kilograms) of transfer fuel; ferry mission, up to 11,015 miles (17,766 kilometers)
Date DeployedAugust 1965
Unit Cost$52.2 million (FY96 constant dollars)
InventoryActive duty, 373; ANG and Reserve, 268


All Information gathered from Air Force Link.