The KC-135 was the first offspring of the Dash 80. It was designed specifically for aerial refueling, and for 15 years it was the only tanker used by the Strategic Air Command (SAC). More than 600 of the 732 tankers built were still in service in the mid-1990s, having earned the distinction of being today one of six military fixed-wing aircraft with over 50 years of continuous service with its original operator. 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.
The KC-135 was initially tasked with 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 U.S. tactical fighters and bombers. During nine years of the Vietnam conflict, KC-135s made 813,000 aerial refuelings of combat aircraft. During the Persian Gulf War, the tankers made 18,700 hookups and transferred 278 million pounds (126 million kilograms) of fuel. This video shows a U.S. Air Force 22nd Air Refueling Wing crew bringing a KC-135 Stratotanker in for a landing at night at an undisclosed location.
Watch the night landing below: