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 Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and allied nation aircraft. The KC-135 is also capable of transporting litter and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.
Four turbofans, mounted under 35-degree swept wings, 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 (MPRS).
MPRS configured aircraft are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft simultaneously from special “pods” mounted on the wingtips. One crewmember, known as the boom operator, is stationed in the rear of the plane and controls the boom during in-flight air refueling. A cargo deck above the refueling system can hold a mixed load of passengers and cargo. Depending on fuel storage configuration, the KC-135 can carry up to 83,000 pounds of cargo.