KC-135 Stratotanker

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The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is an aerial refueling military 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 Desert Storm to extend the range and endurance of Air Force, Navy and Marine tactical fighters and bombers.

Serving with the United States Air Force since 1957, it is one of just six military fixed wing aircraft with over 50 years of continuous service with its original operator. Supplemented by the larger KC-10, complete replacement is still under study by the Air Force. Despite increased maintenance costs, studies conclude many of the aircraft could be flown until 2040, with ages reaching 80 years before reaching lifetime flying hour limits.



Like its sibling, the commercial Boeing 707 jetliner, the KC-135 was derived from the Boeing 367-80 jet transport "proof of concept" demonstrator, which was commonly called the "Dash-80". As such the KC-135 is similar, but has a narrower fuselage and is shorter than the 707. Boeing gave the future KC-135 tanker the initial designation Model 717.[1]

In 1954 USAF's Strategic Air Command held a competition for a jet powered Aerial refueling Tanker. Lockheed's tanker version of the proposed Lockheed L-193 airliner with tail mounted engines was declared the winner in 1955.[2][verification needed] Since Boeing's proposal was already flying, the KC-135 could be delivered two years earlier and Air Force Secretary Harold E. Talbott ordered 250 KC-135 tankers until the Lockheed's design could be manufactured. In the end, orders for the Lockheed tanker were dropped rather than supporting two tanker designs. Lockheed never produced its jet airliner, while Boeing would eventually dominate the market with a family of airliners based on the 707.[3][4]

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