The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is the US Army’s Aerial refueling aircraft. It is the same aircraft that has been developed off the model of the Boeing 367-80 prototype which is also the model for the airliner named Boeing 707. This aircraft is actually the predominant variant for the family of the C-135 Stratolifter; a transport aircraft.
The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is actually the main aerial refueling aircraft that is serving the US Air Force and it is the first aircraft of the USAF which is jet-powered. It was designed to replace the previous generation KC-97 Stratofreighter. The purpose of the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker was to exclusively provide air refueling for the fighter bombers but the aircraft went on to serve extensively for the US Army during the Vietnam War and after that during the major conflicts such as the Operation Desert Storm. This aircraft was the one responsible for increasing the tactical endurance and the range of the US jet fighters and the bombers.
The very first time the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker entered in US Air Force’s service was back in 1957 and it is now among one of the only 6 fixed-wing aircraft to have been in the continuous service of US Army; its original operator. The aircraft is further supplemented by its larger variants like the KC-10. According to the many studies conducted by the US Army, many models of the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker can serve the army well until 2040 but with one problem and that is the increase in its maintenance costs. US Air Force plans to partially replace the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker with the new and upcoming Boeing KC-46 Pegasus.
For our readers today, we present to you some amazing facts about the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker; the force multiplier.
Back in 1957, when the very first KC-135 Stratotanker made it into active service of the US Army, it was not only the largest aerial refueling aircraft to be serving the US Army but also was the world’s very first jet-powered aerial refueling aircraft.
The KC-135 Stratotanker was delivered to serve the Strategic Air Command for the support of the nuclear weapons carrying B-52 bombers for the US Army during the Cold War. But soon the KC-135 Stratotanker turned out to be a versatile aircraft for the army and served for it as a conventional force.
According to many historians, these giant KC-135 Stratotankers were as much crucial for the US Army as their B-52 bombers with their nuclear arsenals during the Cold War era. It served as the important air bridge between the United States and the European nations during the event of war. If the bridge made by the KC-135 Stratotankers was ever broken during that era, the tide of the war would have most likely turned in the favor of the Soviet Union.
The KC-135 Stratotanker had no problems in skipping the oceans when it came to supplying the fuel to American fighters by its internal fuel tanks. However, the major problem was that once it crossed the Atlantic Ocean, it was very vulnerable to a Soviet attack. The reason was the aircraft was so impressive in its range that the escort fighters of the KC-135 Stratotanker were not enough to match up with it. Still, due to multiple KC-135 Stratotankers being deployed in the skies, NATO forces deployed a wall of fighter defense in skies that were able to have an increased range thanks to the aerial refueling form these KC-135 Stratotankers themselves.
The KC-135 Stratotanker was known to be a force multiplier during that era due to its ability to multiply the endurance and the range of the fighters which in turn increased their lethality. This ability of the KC-135 Stratotanker was put to extensive use during the Vietnam War when the KC-135 Stratotanker conducted nearly 813000 aerial refueling missions.
As for the KC-135 Stratotanker’s service during the Persian Gulf War, the aircraft was responsible for making nearly 18700 aerial refueling missions for the aircraft belonging to multiple nations.
All because of the most recent upgraded and performance enhancements this aircraft of 690 years of age is still considered to be a premium tanker for the US Army as well for other nations.
The unique design of the KC-135 Stratotanker allows the aircraft to hold in nearly 220000 pounds of fuel which is more than enough to refill 11 of the F-22 Raptors which are completely empty.
The most impressive feat is that the aircraft can carry this much fuel along with carrying a cargo weighing almost 83000 pounds in the extra storage area located right above the fuel tanks.
Increases the US’s Combat Power
The greatest contribution from the KC-135 Stratotanker is to present the President of the United States with an option to deal with the threats developing in farthest corners of the world. This is done by the forward deployment of nearly hundreds of these KC-135 Stratotankers to allow the US to project its amazing combat power which can be either for the ground troops or the aerial assets. These KC-135 Stratotankers can be deployed form their bases to anywhere in the world in a matter of few hours.
The fact that the US fighters and bombers can strike on the potential threats from another content without a need to stop, all thanks to the KC-135 Stratotanker has made this unarmed aircraft a powerful deterrent. It is perhaps more of a deterrent as compared to a nuclear weapon.
The KC-135 Stratotanker is powered by the CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines which are able to produce a thrust of nearly 21634 pounds each. This much power is able to propel the aircraft in the sky for flying at a top speed of nearly 530 mph at a height of 50000 feet for a range of 1500 miles. This is the range of the aircraft that it can accomplish all the while carrying a maximum weight of 322500 pounds which includes carrying the fuel for refueling aircraft and the cargo.