Marking 50 Years of the KC-135

Today marks 50 years since the first KC-135 rolled out of the Boeing plant in Renton, Wash. The aircraft has served as a transport, aeromedical evacuation, flying command post, and electronic reconnaissance platform, but it is best known as the US Air Force’s workhorse aerial refueler. The feats of its crews are legend, dating from the Vietnam War to today. Over the course of nine years during operations in Southeast Asia, KC-135s flew almost 180,000 sorties, making more than 800,000 refuelings of combat aircraft. (Read “The Young Tigers and their Friends,” Air Force Magazine, June 1998.) During Desert Shield and Desert Storm—a period of about seven months—KC-135s flew some 13,600 sorties and accomplished more than 40,000 refuelings. (Read “Tankers at the Rendezvous,” AFM, June 1993.)