The Contrails: Aircraft, Weapons Systems: KC-135R/T Stratotanker

A KC-135R Stratotanker refuels an F-22 fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A KC-135R Stratotanker refuels an F-22 fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Manufacturer: Boeing

Function: Aerial Refueling/Airlift

Modified Functions: Special Mission, Reconnaissance

Service Date: 1957

Speed: 530 mph

Crew: Three (Tanker)

Production: 732 Inventory: 204

Commentary: Currently the Mainstay of the USAF tanker fleet, the long-serving KC-135 is similar in size and appearance to commercial 707 aircraft but was designed to military specifications. The size and range of the platform led to numerous variants in its 60+ years of service to include reconnaissance, observation, weather and command and controls missions. 

Major Variants:
-- C-135 “Stratolifter” Transport
-- EC-135 “Looking Glass” 

Command/Control
-- RC-135V/W “Rivet Joint” Reconnaissance
-- RC-135U “Combat Sent” Reconnaissance
-- RC-135X “Cobra Eye” Reconnaissance
-- RC-135S “Cobra Ball” Reconnaissance
-- OC-135B “Open Skies” Observation
-- TC-135 Trainer (Offutt AFB)
-- WC-135 “Constant Phoenix” Atmospheric Testing