Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

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KC-135D

On April 4th, 2007 the fourth and final KC-135D was retired to AMARG from the 190th Air Refueling Wing based at Forbes Field ANGB, KS. These four KC-135D are arguably the most interesting aircraft of the KC-135 family having started their Air Force service undertaking a completely different mission to that which they ended up performing. They were originally built as RC-135A 'Pacer Swan' photo reconnaissance aircraft and were amongst the last C-135 to roll off the Boeing production lines. The original order, placed in 1962, was for a total of nine RC-135A which were to replace the 16 Boeing RB-50F Superfortress of the 1370th Photo Mapping Wing based at Turner AFB, GA. However, before the aircraft were built the number ordered was reduced to four with 63-8062 thru 63-8066 being cancelled.

The Kollsman Instrument Corp. designed/built photomapping and aerial geodetic surveying systems that were installed on the RC-135A were given the designation AN/USQ-28 and were capable of photomapping up to 40,000 square miles a day. Two mapping cameras were installed in a pressurized compartment under the front of the fuselage in the area used to house the first two fuel cells of the forward tank on a KC-135.

The RC-135A's mission was cut short in the early 1970s due to satellites and other advancing technologies taking over much of the photomapping role. Having become obsolete the four aircraft were transferred from Military Airflift Command to Strategic Air Command who utilized them as staff transports operating from Offutt AFB, NE.

In 1979 the RC-135As were converted to a partial KC-135A configuration and were given their unique D designation which recognised their difference to the full KC-135A specification. During their conversion the flight engineer positions which had been on the flight decks was removed but their electrically-powered wing flap secondary (emergency) drive mechanisms were retained, as were the second air conditioning units which had been used to cool the on-board photo-mapping systems. During 1990 the four aircraft were upgraded to KC-135E standards by being fitted with Pratt & Whitney TF33 engines and avionics upgrades.

   

KC-135D 63-8060 is a partcularly interesting aircraft as it was the very first C-135 to arrive at MASDC when it was received from Forbes AFB on June 29th, 1972. Its stay was a very short one as on July 27 of the same year it departed to be re-assigned to the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing based at Offutt AFB, NE.

Below is a summary of assignments for the four RC-135A before their conversion to KC-135;

Serial CN Delivered
to USAF
History
63-8058 18670 03-JAN-1966

15-JUN-1966 - To Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. for testing.

21-JUN-1966 - Converted to JRC-135A.

02-AUG-1967 - To 1370th Photo Mapping Wing, Turner AFB, GA.

01-NOV-1967 - Converted back to RC-135A.

08-JUL-1968 - To Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. for testing.

19-JUL-1968 - To 1370th Photo Mapping Wing, Forbes AFB, KS.

22-JUN-1972 - To Donaldson Center, Greenville, SC. (WK)

14-JUL-1972 - To 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Offutt AFB, NE.

19-SEP-1978 - To Majors Field, Greenville, TX. for conversion to KC-135D.

63-8059 18671 15-SEP-1965

16-SEP-1965 - To 1370th Photo Mapping Wing, Turner AFB, GA.

03-MAY-1966 - To AF Plant 77, Palmdale, CA. (WL)

01-SEP-1966 - To 1370th Photo Mapping Wing, Turner AFB, GA.

14-APR-1967 - To 1370th Photo Mapping Wing, Forbes AFB, KS.

28-SEP-1972 - To Tinker AFB, OK. (WO)

13-DEC-1972 - To 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Offutt AFB, NE.

15-AUG-1977 - To 2nd Bombardment (Heavy) Wing, Barksdale AFB, LA.

09-OCT-1979 - To Majors Field, Greenville, TX. for conversion to KC-135D.

63-8060 18672 15-SEP-1965

16-SEP-1965 - To 1370th Photo Mapping Wing, Turner AFB, GA.

27-SEP-1966 - To Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. for testing.

04-AUG-1967 - To 1370th Photo Mapping Wing, Forbes AFB, KS.

01-NOV-1967 - Converted back to RC-135A.

29-JUN-1972 - To MASDC, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. for storage.

27-JUL-1972 - To 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Offutt AFB, NE.

22-MAR-1979 - To Majors Field, Greenville, TX. for conversion to KC-135D.

63-8061 18673 01-OCT-1965

02-JUN-1966 - To 1370th Photo Mapping Wing, Turner AFB, GA.

14-APR-1967 - To 1370th Photo Mapping Wing, Forbes AFB, KS.

22-MAY-1972 - To 2nd Bombardment (Heavy) Wing, Barksdale AFB, LA.

16-OCT-1973 - To 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Offutt AFB, NE.

24-JUN-1977 - To 22nd Bombardment (Heavy) Wing, March AFB, CA.

04-SEP-1979 - To Majors Field, Greenville, TX. for conversion to KC-135D.

 

KC-135E

September 23, 2009 saw the retirement of the last operational Air Force Boeing KC-135E Stratotanker to AMARG. This final flight, by 59-3630 from the 101st Air Refueling Wing based at Bangor ANGB, ME. signalled the end of over 50 years service of the type with the U.S. Air Force. The phasing out of the KC-135E was carried out between 2007 and 2009 with a total of 99 aircraft arriving at the Center for storage and for parts reclamation use. It has been reported that 74 of the aircraft will be put into Type 1000 storage for potential re-generation if required in the future. A further ten KC-135E have been turned over for static display use at bases and museums and for ground instructional use. These include the following examples;

Serial CN Previous Unit Fate
56-3611 17360 126th Air Refueling Wing, Scott AFB, IL. Scott AFB, IL.
57-1429 17500 190th Air Refueling Wing, Forbes Field ANGB, KS. Museum of Kansas National Guard, Forbes Field, KS.
57-1503 17574 134th Air Refueling Wing, McGhee-Tyson ANGB, TN. Instructional use at Sheppard AFB, TX.
57-1507 17578 108th Air Refueling Wing, McGuire AFB, NJ. Air Mobility Ccommand Museum, Dover AFB, DE.
57-1510 17581 151st Air Refueling Wing, Salt Lake City IAP, UT. Hill Aerospace Museum, Hill AFB, UT.

 

   

 

The units involved in the KC-135E retirements are detailed in the table below along with a short description of what happened to them after losing their Es.

Squadron Wing Base Command Notes
63rd ARS 927th ARW MacDill AFB, FL. AFRC Transferred from Selfridge ANGB, MI., to MacDill AFB, FL.., and transitioned to KC-135R in April 2008.
108th ARS 126th ARW Scott AFB, IL. ANG - IL Completed transition to KC-135R during September 2008.
117th ARS 190th ARW Forbes Field ANGB, KS. ANG - KS Completed transition to KC-135R during June 2007. Aircraft received from the 184th ARW at McConnell AFB, KS.
132nd ARS 101st ARW Bangor ANGB, ME. ANG - ME Transitioned to KC-135R during 2007.
141st ARS 108th ARW McGuire AFB, NJ. ANG - NJ Transitioned to KC-135R during 2007.
146th ARS 171st ARW Pittsburgh IAP, PA. ANG - PA Transitioned to KC-135T.
150th ARS 108th ARW McGuire AFB, NJ. ANG - NJ Transitioned to KC-135R during 2007.
151st ARS 134th ARW McGhee-Tyson ANGB, TN. ANG - TN Transitioned to KC-135R.
174th ARS 185th ARW Sioux City ANGB, IA. ANG - IA Transitioned to KC-135R during 2007.
191st ARS 151st ARW Salt Lake City IAP, UT. ANG - UT Transitioned to KC-135R.
197th ARS 161st ARW Phoenix Sky Harbor IAP, AZ. ANG - AZ Transitioned to KC-135R.
314th ARS 940th ARW Beale AFB, CA. AFRC Squadron was inactivated on April 30, 2008.

 

One very distinctive feature on many of these retiring aircraft was the impressive and colorful artwork they were displaying on the left-hand side of their forward fuselages. Some of this "nose-art" can be seen by clicking the link available at the top right of this article.

The retirement of the E model leaves the Air Force with the KC-135R/T and the KC-10 Extender fulfilling the worldwide air refueling mission. In September 2009 the Department of Defense announced the KC-X Tanker Draft Request for Proposal which invited proposals from aircraft manufacturers and consortiums for a replacement design which would begin delivery to the Air Force by 2017. The results were announced on February 24, 2011, the winning bid being the one submitted during March 2010 by Boeing for their KC-767 Advanced Tanker which is based on the Boeing 767-200LRF. On the same day Boeing was awarded a development contract for the new aircraft which has been given the KC-46A designation.

The KC-46A design will be powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4062 high-bypass turbofan engines, each providing 62,000 pounds of thrust. It will have a maximum takeoff gross weight (MTOW) of 415,000 pounds and will have a maximum fuel capacity of 212,000 pounds. Above the fuel storage tanks and refueling system will be cargo deck which will accomodate a mixed load of cargo, passengers and patients. Initially 179 KC-46A will be built, enough to replace one third of the KC-135R/T fleet. Introduction of this first batch of KC-46A is planned to be completed by 2029, the remaining KC-135 fleet is expected to be in service until 2040.

First KC-135R Arrival

On June 20th, 2012 KC-135R 60-0319 of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing based at McConnell AFB, KS. arrived at AMARG for storage.

First Operational KC-135R Arrival

On February 26, 2013, KC-135R 61-0312 of the 54th Air Refueling Squadron, 97th Air Mobility Wing based at Altus AFB, OK. arrived at AMARG for storage. This aircraft is the first of 16 which are to be retired as part of a Force Structure Reduction authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. Click here to read the official press release on this event.. This is actually the second KC-135R to be retired (see 'First KC-135R Arrival' above) but it is assumed (based on its unpainted appearance) that the first, 60-0319, was not considered operational at the time of its arrival at AMARG.

 

Specifications

General Specifications

Powerplant 4 × CFM International CFM56 (F108-CF-100) turbofan, 21,634 lbf (96.2 kN) each
Length 136 ft 3 in (41.53 m)
Wingspan 130 ft 10 in (39.88 m)
Height 41 ft 8 in (12.70 m)
Wing area 2,433 ft² (226 m²)
Empty weight 98,466 lb (44,663 kg)
Max. takeoff weight 322,500 lb (146,000 kg)
Crew Three - pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Occassionally a navigator.
Capacity Fuel Load - 200,000 lb (90,719 kg)

Performance

Maximum speed 580 mph (933 km/h)
Cruise speed 530 mph (853 km/h) at 30,000 feet (9,144 m)
Range 1,500 mi (2,419 km) with 150,000 lb (68,039 kg) of transfer fuel
Ferry range 11,015 mi (17,766 km)
Service ceiling 50,000 ft (15,200 m)
Rate of climb 4,900 ft/min (1,490 m/min)

 

 

      

 

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