Airplanes of the Past Home Page

Boeing C-135, KC-135, and VC-137

Boeing 707

The Boeing Company emerged from World War II as the leading builder of large aircraft. It was experienced at selling planes to the military, although it had not experienced large sales of its civilian airliners.

Boeing Model 367-80, the Dash-80, the 707 prototype, at Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport
Boeing Model 367-80, the Dash-80, the 707 prototype, at Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport (Staff Photo)

The company's development of a commercial jet airliner was a gamble on which the entire company was bet. But with the advent of the 707, Boeing developed a successful commercial jetliner and the basis for new cargo and aerial refueling aircraft for the Air Force.

U.S. Air Force C-135 Stratolifter and KC-135 Stratotanker

The C-135 evolved from Boeing 707 prototype, the "Dash-80", and became the U.S. Air Force's first jet-powered refueling tanker, introduced in 1957. It replaced the KC-97.

The KC-135 Stratotanker is similar in appearance to the commercial 707, but has a narrower fuselage and is shorter than the 707.

The KC-135 was initially used for refueling strategic bombers, but was used extensively in the Vietnam War and later conflicts such as Operation Desert Storm to extend the range and endurance of US tactical fighters and bombers.

The Stratotanker entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1957, and remains in active service in 2020. It is one of six military fixed-wing aircraft with over 50 years of continuous service with its original operator.

U.S.A.F Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
U.S.A.F Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

The next generation Air Force tanker was the KC-10 Extender, to be followed in 2017 by the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus which is based on the Boeing 767.

Variants of the C-135 airplane were utilized for other purposes, including presidential aircraft, such as the VC-137, also known as the C-137 Stratoliner.

To supplement its VC-137s, the Air Force converted several C-135 airframes to VC-135 VIP standard models, used for staff transport within the United States.

Boeing would eventually build over 800 of the C-135 series aircraft.

 

C-135 Series Aircraft of the U.S. Air Force

Model
Purpose
C-135 Stratolifter
Cargo & Trainer
KC-135 Stratotanker
Aerial Refueling
E-3 Sentry
AWACS
E-8 Joint STARS
Reconnaissance
OC-135B
Reconnaissance
RC-135
Reconnaissance
EC-135
Airborne Command
WC-135B
Weather
VC-137 Stratoliner
VIP Transport

 

U.S. Air Force EC-135, S/N 10262 at the entrance to Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota
USAF EC-135, S/N 10262, Ellsworth Air Force Base, Rapid City, South Dakota

VC-137 Presidential Aircraft

VC-137 Air Force One in flight - Tail Number 27000
VC-137 Air Force One in flight - Tail Number 27000

Towards the end of Eisenhower's term in 1958, the Air Force added three Boeing 707 aircraft into presidential fleet. In October of 1962, the Air Force purchased an additional aircraft, a VC-137 designated as Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000.

SAM 26000 served presidents from 1962 to 1998, carrying Presidents Kennedy to Clinton. It is on display at the Museum of the U. S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

In December of 1962, another VC-137C was added to the inventory, known as SAM 27000. Today, 27000 is on display at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Read more about Presidential and Military VIP aircraft


Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000 on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Simi Valley, California Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000 on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Simi Valley, California
Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000
Entered service in December, 1972, ended service August, 2001. Now on dispoay at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California
Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000, former "Air Force One"
Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000, former "Air Force One" at Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, OH

 

Photos from the Airplanes of the Past Archives

Boeing VC-137B, "Freedom One", at the PIMA Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona
One of three Boeing 707-153s converted to military use, this aircraft was completed as a VC-137A by Boeing in Seattle, Washington in April 1959.
Boeing VC-137B Freedom One
Boeing EC-135J S/N 63-8057
EC-135J S/N 63-8057 at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona
Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker S/N 55-3139 near Atwater, California
KC-135A Stratotanker S/N 55-3139 at the Castle Air Museum, Atwater, CA
U.S. Air Force EC-135, S/N 10262 at the entrance to Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota
U.S. Air Force EC-135, S/N 10262, at the entrance to Ellsworth Air Force Bas, SD
KC-135E Stratotanker, S/N 57-1510 at Hill AFB, Utah
KC-135E Stratotanker, S/N 57-1510, Hill AFB, Ogden, Utah
Boeing C-135 S/N 91518 at AMARG
Boeing C-135 S/N 91518 at AMARG, Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona

 

 

Shown Below: C-135 Stratolifter S/N 61-2671 at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
Construction Number C/N 18347, a Boeing C-135B-BN, was delivered to the Air Force on April 27, 1962.
It was converted to a WC-135B in June of 1965 for use by the 56th Weather Squadron.
In 1974 it was again converted, to a C-135C supporting transportation of high-level
military commanders in the Pacific realm until the early 1990s. At that time, the plane was
flown to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB for mid-term
corrosion control. However, 61-2671 was deemed too corroded to repair, and was
ultimately placed on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark
C-135 Stratolifter S/N 61-2671 on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-135 Stratolifter S/N 61-2671, Construction Number C/N 18347, a Boeing C-135B-BN, on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma C-135C Stratolifter S/N 61-2671, former WC-135B, at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City

KC-135 Stratotanker S/N 63595
KC-135 Stratotanker S/N 63595 at Barksdale AFB in Bossier City, Louisiana
KC-135 Stratotanker S/N 63595
USAF EC-135, S/N 10262, of the 28th Bombardment Wing (H)
USAF EC-135, S/N 10262, of the 28th Bombardment Wing (H), South Dakota
Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker, S/N 63-7998, N391NA, NASA aircraft
Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker, S/N 63-7998, N391NA, NASA aircraft, Tucson, Arizona
KC-135A, S/N 55-3130, "Ole Grandad" of the U.S. Air Force, at the March Field Air Museum in California
KC-135A, S/N 55-3130, "Ole Grandad" of the U.S. Air Force, at the March Field Air Museum in California

C-135 aircraft at AMARG

C-135 aircraft being used for parts at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, AMARG, Tucson, AZ

 

 

C-135 Photographs by Our Friends and Supporters

KC-135 Stratotanker on display at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska
KC-135 Stratotanker at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska
(photo by Michael Hoschouer)

KC-135R Stratotanker at the 2014 Cannon AFB Air Show, Clovis, New Mexico
KC-135 Stratotanker of the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Cannon AFB Air Show
(photo by Andrew Hersey)

U.S. STRIKE Command VC-135A

U.S. Strike Command's VC-135A, S/N 61-0316, Airborne Command Post, built in 1962
Photo taken at Heathrow Airport near the PanAm hangar, 1971
(Photo by Mick West, as published by Airliners.Net ... used with permission of the photographer)
U.S. Strike Command's VC-135A, S/N 61-0316, Airborne Command Post