The KC-135 was the first offspring of the Dash 80. It was the only jet airplane designed specifically for aerial refueling and for 15 years was the only tanker used by the Strategic Air Command. More than 600 of the 732 built were still in service in the mid-1990’s.
The KC-135 replaced the propeller-powered KC-97 tankers, which could no longer keep up with the jet fighters and bombers. In 1956, when the first KC-135 nicknamed “The City of Renton” rolled out of the plant, it shared the Renton tarmac with the last KC-97, providing a vivid picture of the Boeing Company’s complete conversion to jet power.
During nine years of the Vietnam conflict, KC-135’s made 813,000 aerial refuelings of combat aircraft. During the Persian Gulf war, the tankers made 18,700 hookups and transferred 278 million pounds of fuel.
A total of 820 KC-135’s were built in Renton through 1966: 732 as aerial tankers and 88 modified for special purposes, including cargo carriers, reconnaissance airplanes, SAC Airborne Command Posts and transports for high-ranking government officials.
Boeing modifications that extend service capabilities of the KC-135’s into the next millenium include re-skinning the wings with an improved aluminum alloy and installing new, more powerful and fuel-efficient engines. Two re-engined KC-135’s can do the work of three KC-135A’s.
The KC-135 remains the Air Force’s prime aerial refueling airplane.
The 190th Air Refueling Wing, Kansas Air National Guard located at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kansas, donated a Boeing KC-135 tanker to the Kansas Aviation Museum at Wichita, Kansas, the Air Capital of the World. The aircraft was dedicated for the late Michael O’Toole, former commander of the Kansas Air National Guard’s 190th Air Refueling Wing.
The Wing fly’s the Boeing KC-135E/D aircraft. Their primary mission is inflight refueling. They are one of 17 Air National Guard units flying the KC-135.
For photographs of the donated KC-135, please click here!