KC-135 Stratotanker Rests Its Old Bones After Feeding F-22 Raptors Over Florida

One of the most important capabilities of modern-day military airplanes (and helicopters) is aerial refueling. The first such mission was conducted all the way back during the Korean War, when, forced by circumstances, F-84 fighter-bombers got their juice from converted B-29s. Now, this occurrence is commonplace, and we even have airplanes that specialize in such operations.
KC-135 Stratotanker after refueling F-22 Raptors over Florida 7 photos
Photo: USAF/Brad Sturk
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The KC-135 Stratotanker is one of these specialized machines. Built by Boeing as an evolution of the 367-80, it became America’s first jet-powered refueling tanker when it was inducted into service in 1957.

Yes, this is how old this plane is, and even if production for it ended in 1965, some of the 800 units made are still in service. Like the one we have here, captured in this amazing still (click photo to enlarge) at the Naval Air Station Key West in Florida.

The plane, assigned to the Wisconsin Air National Guard 128th Air Refueling Wing, is on the tarmac after having refueled a number of F-22 Raptors flying with the 325th Fighter Wing during the jets’ dissimilar air combat training over Florida.

With a gross weight of 297,000 pounds (134,717 kg), the KC-135 can carry fuel for enough planes to have airborne reserves: 200,000 lb (90,718 kg). The four turbofan engines that power it can take the tanker to speeds of up to 580 mph (933 kph), and it can keep flying for 1,500 miles (2,414 km).

The KC-135 Stratotanker is no stranger to military operations. During the Vietnam war, it flew 813,000 times on refueling missions, while during the Persian Gulf War the nameplate did the same 18,700 times.

Not all KC-135s have been made for carrying fuel, though. Of the 800 or so made, 88 were modified versions meant for hauling some other cargo, or act as reconnaissance airplanes or command posts.

The ones that are still flying now feature re-skinned wings and better engines that allow "two re-engined KC-135Rs do the work of three KC-135As."
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Editor's note: Gallery shows other KC-135 Stratotankers.

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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