The KC-135 Stratotanker provides the core aerial refueling capability for the United States Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. This unique asset enhances the Air Force's capability to accomplish its primary missions of Global Reach and Global Power. It also provides aerial refueling support to allied nation aircraft.
Four turbofans power the KC-135 to takeoffs at gross weights up to 322,500 pounds. Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom, the KC-135's primary fuel transfer method. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue, attached to and trailing behind the flying boom, may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the Multipoint Refueling System or MPRS. MPRS configured aircraft are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft simultaneously from special "pods" mounted on the wingtips.
The Boeing Company's model 367-80 was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker. In 1954 the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future 732-plane fleet. The first aircraft flew in August 1956 and the initial production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, Calif., in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.