Few would have imagined when "Dix" Loesch and "Tex" Johnston took the KC-135A up for its maiden flight on August 31, 1956 that some 60 years later, it would still be in front-line active service around the world. What began as a jet-powered replacement for the KC-97 to refuel Strategic Air Command's growing B-47 and B-52 bomber fleet soon evolved into America's first military heavy jet transport, an airborne command post platform capable of surviving and then commanding America's nuclear war plan, a testbed that enabled scientists to study the Earth, send men to the Moon and understand the power of the atom.
Other variants of the KC-135 included a reconnaissance airframe that monitors arms agreements, gathers intelligence to understand the intentions and capabilities of potential enemies and provides real-time intelligence in combat – beginning with the war in Southeast Asia, and continuing to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Today, tanker versions of the KC-135 remain in service with Chile, France, Singapore, Turkey, and the United States, while reconnaissance variants operate with Great Britain and the United States. This is a fully revised and expanded edition of the original bestselling 'Aerofax' book and includes operational histories of the 80+ unique types, as well as individual details for all 820 airplanes by serial number including first flight, delivery, changes in configuration, attrition, and retirement. Appendices cover all units, a summary of each accident, display and stored aircraft, and record-setting achievements.
Continue reading “The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker: More Than a Tanker”