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Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is a military aerial refuelling 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 refuelling tanker and replaced the KC-97 Stratofreighter.

The KC-135 was initially tasked with refuelling 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-135 entered service with the 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.



Original production version powered by four Pratt & Whitney J57s.


Test configured KC-135A.


Airborne command post version equipped with turbofan engines.

Provided with in-flight refuelling capability and redesignated EC-135C.


All four RC-135As were modified to partial KC-135A configuration in 1979.

The four aircraft were given a unique designation KC-135D as they differed from the KC-135A in that they were built with a flight engineer’s position on the flight deck.

The flight engineer’s position was removed when the aircraft were modified to KC-135 standards but they retained their electrically powered wing flap secondary drive mechanism and second air conditioning pack which had been used to cool the RC-135As onboard photo-mapping systems.


Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve KC-135As re-engined with Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-102 engines from retired 707 airliners.


Test-configured KC-135E.

Big Crow I & Big Crow II used as airborne targets for the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser carrier.


KC-135As modified to carry JP-7 fuel necessary for the SR-71 Blackbird.


4 JC/KC-135As converted to Rivet Stand (Later Rivet Quick) configuration for reconnaissance and evaluation of above ground nuclear test.

These aircraft were powered by Pratt & Whitney J57 engines and were based at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.


KC-135As and some KC-135Es re-engined with CFM56 engines.


Receiver capable KC-135R Stratotanker, eight modified with either a Boeing or LTV receiver system and a secure voice SATCOM radio.

Three of the aircraft were converted to tankers from RC-135Ds, from which they retained their added equipment.


KC-135Q re-engined with CFM56 engines.


A new-built variant for France as dual-role tanker/cargo and troop carrier aircraft.

12 were built for the French Air Force with the addition of a drogue adapter on the refuelling boom.


11 surviving C-135Fs upgraded with CFM International F108 turbofans between 1985 and 1988.

Later modified with MPRS wing pods.


One sole aircraft was converted to a airborne command post in 1984 to support CINCCENT.

Unlike its sister EC-135N, it was a true tanker that could also receive inflight refuelling.

Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-102.





80 passengers / 83,000 lb (38,000 kg)


136 ft 3 in (41.53 m)


130 ft 10 in (39.88 m)


41 ft 8 in (12.70 m)

Wing area

2,433 sq ft (226.0 m2)



BAC 310/311/312


BAC 313

Empty weight

98,392 lb (44,630 kg)

Operating empty weight

124,000 lb (56,245 kg)

Gross weight

297,000 lb (134,717 kg)

Max take-off weight

322,500 lb (146,284 kg)

Fuel capacity

200,000 lb (90,718 kg)


4 × CFM International F108-CF-100 turbofan engines,

21,600 lbf (96.2 kN) thrust each


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)


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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