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Some little known facts about the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter; The Strategic Tanker

The aircraft we present is known by its designation Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter which served the USAF United States Air Force as their primary Strategic Aerial Refueling tanker. In addition to the tanker roles, the aircraft also served the following roles in its many other variant models.

  • Electronic Warfare
  • Search and Rescue
  • Reconnaissance
  • Training
  • Transport

The design of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter is based on the design of the former Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter and it succeeded in the previous refueling tanker named Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker.

For or reader today, we bring to you some of the little known facts about the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter.


During World War II, it dawned on the United States that they were in need of the heavy-lift aircraft for keeping up with the fuel supply-demand by their fighters. To tackle this problem, the US turned to companies like Boeing for the creation of these massive transporting aircraft. The designs for these refueling aircraft were based on the design of the existing bomber aircraft. Boeing engineers worked on creating massive refueling aircraft based on the design of bombers like the B-29 and the B-50 Superfortress.

The four-engine frame design of these bombers was taken and then incorporated into designing and manufacturing an aircraft which could serve the role of the refueling tanker. This aircraft took its first flight in 1944 but when it came to entry into World War II, the war had already ended. Still, the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter came into being and continued to serve the USAF for many coming years.

Serving the role of Aerial tanker:-

The emergence of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter was highly appreciated by the new mindset of the USAF as the early jet-powered fighter aircraft and the bombers were fuel-hungry machines that ran off their fuel supplies in a little amount of time. To facilitate the refueling of these aircraft in-flight, the air-to-air fuel delivery system of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter was the best thing at the time.

The new Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter’s delivery system was based off entirely from the former c-97 which included a deep fuselage along with having all the requirements of the aircraft for carrying and delivering the fuel such as the boom arm, fuel stores and the equipment to pump the fuel for the needed aircraft.

This allowed for the US bombers and fighters to no longer rely solely on their internal fuel supplies or to return to base for refueling. The air-to-air refueling system increased their range by a significant magnitude.

Delivery to USAF (United States Air Force):-

The very first delivery of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter was made to USAF back in 1950 with the for al induction into the Air Force starting back on 14th July 1951. The Boeing aircraft continued production of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter from its facilities from the year 1951 to 1956.

Serving several branches of USAF (United States Air Force) and other operators:-

During the service of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter with the USAF, it served many branches like the following.

  • SAC (Strategic Air Command)
  • Air Force Reserve
  • The Air National guard

Some of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighters serving in the USAF and its various branches were retired from their service as early as 1956 due to there being more efficient alternatives available. Still, the robust design and the efficient fuel delivery system allowed for the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter to serve well until 1978.

The only other operators for the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter other than the United States were the Spanish Air Force and the Israeli Air force.

Notable Variants:-

During the course of its manufacturing, Boeing created numerous variants of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter. The first one to emerge was the transport variant designated as KC-97A. 3 of these variant models were created by replacing the loading ramps in the rear but still retained their refueling boom arm in order to test the overall design of the aircraft.  After the aircraft was tested, these 3 models were converted into the transport versions.

The main refueling tanker version of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter was designated as KC-97E and nearly 60 of these models were created. This particular aircraft was powered by 4 of the R-4360-59B engines that could generate 3800 HP. This particular model was then fine-tuned and a total of 159 more of these units were created by Boeing. Some units of this particular variant were also converted into transporting ones ad were designated as C-97F.

The variant of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter which was most manufactured was the KC-97G as 592 units were built which could serve the role of both the refueling tankers as well as of cargo transport. The aircraft was fitted with fuel tanks under its wings.

3 special units of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter were created as per the request of the USAF to Boeing. These units of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter were designated as EC-97G which was the ELINT (Electronics Intelligence) version. It had been equipped with all the necessary equipment for an electronic warfare aircraft.

One other variant of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter was the HC97G which would go on to serve the role of Search and Rescue aircraft. 24 of these models were manufactured.

“Super Guppy” to serve US’s Space Program:-

One of the famed variants with no association to the USAF was the aircraft designated the name, Super Guppy. This aircraft was manufactured and had alterations done to it in order to facilitate the Space Program of NASA; the Apollo (Saturn). The aircraft was provided to NASA later in 1993 and to this day, it still remains in operational capability. It is only one of the 2 such aircraft of its series that boats the operational status.

Appearance in a Movie:-

The Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter has also been used in the Hollywood Movies with the first time being shown refueling a B-47 in a 1955’s movie titled “Strategic Air Command” and then a second time in the 1957’s movie titled Bomber’s B-52.

Total Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighters manufactured:-

From ears in between 1950 to 1956, Boeing created the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter in its many variant models. The number ranges up to 811 of these Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighters.

Powerplant, speed & range:-

A single Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter unit as powered by 4 of the Pratt & Whitney R-4360-59 radial piston engines. These engines generated the power of 3500 HP. There was also an option to attach two more turbojet engines of the model General Electric J47-GE-23 under its wings, which would create for additional thrust of 5790 lbs.  These engines were mostly used for the Space Program version Super Guppy.

In the standard engine configuration, the aircraft was able to fly at a top speed of nearly 401 mph for a service range of 2299 miles with the service ceiling being about 30300 feet.

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