Here’s How 18 KC-135 Stratotankers Look Like on an Elephant Walk

18 KC-135 Stratotankers at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington 8 photos
Photo: USAF/Senior Airman Ryan Gomez
18 KC-135 Stratotankers at Fairchild Air Force Base in WashingtonKC-135 StratotankerKC-135 StratotankerKC-135 StratotankerKC-135 StratotankerKC-135 StratotankerKC-135 Stratotanker
A single military aircraft, no matter its type, is pretty impressive, but when you get a bunch of them to line up for whatever reason, you get the real definition of power. Power as seen here, emanating from no less than 18 KC-135 Stratotankers sitting on the same runway.
What we’re looking at is a shot captured by U.S. Air Force (USAF) personnel back in September (and recently released) at the Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington. We can see the 18 winged beasts (click main photo to enlarge) we're told are there, perfectly lined up for an exercise meant to “validate maintenance generation and operational capability to launch multiple aircraft using minimum takeoff interval procedures.”

There was a time, eight decades ago, when that’s all armies did, get aircraft on the runways and send them off in packs. It was during those massive aerial operations that the term elephant walk came to describe a significant number of them taking off one after the other.

Given how present-day military operations do not require all that many planes being launched at once, we don’t get to see images such as this one very often. Especially when it comes to logistics machines like the Stratotanker.

Introduced all the way back in the mid-1950s, the KC-135 is one of the oldest tankers currently in operation. The 18 we have here are part of a select group of about 400 still being used by the American military.

Powered by four Pratt & Whitney turbojet engines capable of developing 13,750 pounds of thrust each, the winged beasts can fly at speeds of up to 600 mph (966 kph) and for as much as 5,000 miles (8,047 km), which would be a trip from Los Angeles to New York and back, and with some fuel to spare.

The plane has a capacity to fuel a number of smaller aircraft, being capable of carrying 200,000 lb (90,718 kg) of fuel. Alternatively, it can also transport 80 troops inside its cargo bay.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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