Aircraft / Aviation Vehicles & Artillery Small Arms Warships & Submarines Military Ranks Military Pay Chart (2024)
Aviation / Aerospace

Boeing C-135 Stratolifter

Military Transport Aircraft [ 1957 ]

Exactly sixty examples of the Boeing C-135 Stratolifter were built for the United States Air Force, the series continuing service today despite its 1950s origins.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 01/21/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Boeing C-135 "Stratolifter" - known internally as the "Model 717" - was developed in the 1950s and was based in the Model 367-80 jet-powered passenger airliner prototype. This prototype achieved first-flight on July 15th, 1954 though only a single airframe was completed. Regardless, the design went on to influence the development of the United States Air Force's (USAF) C-135 and all of its offshoot aircraft - to include the KC-135 "Stratotanker" and WC-135 "Constant Phoenix". The C-135 prototype itself was first-flown on August 17th, 1956 and entered service in June of 1957. Sixty total airframes were produced by Boeing from the period spanning 1954 to 1965 and the series maintains an active service status in the USAF fleet today (2020).

The aircraft typically carries an operating crew of three (pilot, co-pilot, and loadmaster) while the airframe has a length of 136.2 feet with a wingspan of 130.9 feet, and a height of 41.7 feet. Empty weight is 98,465lb against an MTOW of 322,500lb. For its service life, the C-135 has been powered by various turbojets and turbofans depending on decade of operation. Performance includes a maximum speed of 580 miles-per-hour with a range out to 3,450 miles, and a service ceiling of 50,000 feet. Rate-of-climb reaches 4,900 feet-per-minute.

The initial in-service model of the series became the "C-135A" (Model 717-157) which were "hybrid-role" airframes capable of passenger- (126 personnel) or cargo-hauling sorties. Early forms of this variant were powered by 4 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-59W series turbojet engines and later models were introduced with 4 x Pratt & Whitney TF33 turbofan engines resulting in the change to the "C-135E" designation. Lengthened tailplanes were also introduced for improved controlling and total production ended with eighteen C-135A/E model aircraft which served into the 1990s.

The C-135B (Model 717-158) followed and were based in the A-model but given TF33-P-5 turbofan engines instead. Thirty aircraft were built to the standard and five were set aside for VC-135B VIP transport conversion. B-models also formed the basis for the RC-135, WC-135B, and other specialized versions by way of conversion programs.

The C-135C was the designation used to mark three Stratolifter airframes (based in the C-135B variant) modified for the weather reconnaissance role as "WC-135B". These aircraft held an air-to-air refueling capability and were eventually reset to their original passenger/cargo forms before the end.

The C-135E were C-135A models given TF33-PW-102 series turbofan engines and operated under the designation of "EC-135N" as mission-support platforms before reverting back to the C-135E designation.

The C-135F (Model 717-164), based in the C-135A, was produced to a French requirement for a hybrid transport/aerial tanker platform. Twelve airframes were built by Boeing. The C-135FR designation then covered eleven C-135F tankers re-engined with 4 x CFM56 turbofan engines.

The C-135K was a one-off variant used in the VIP transport role under the CINCPAC banner.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Service Year

United States national flag graphic
United States

In Active Service.


National flag of France National flag of the United States France; United States
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Specially-equipped platform providing over-battlefield Command and Control (C2) capability for allied aerial elements.
Equipped to actively deny adversaries the ElectroMagnetic (EM) spectrum and protect said spectrum for allied forces.
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
Used in the Very-Important-Person (VIP) passenger transport role, typically with above-average amenities and luxuries as standard.
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.

136.3 ft
(41.55 m)
131.2 ft
(40.00 m)
41.7 ft
(12.70 m)
Empty Wgt
99,208 lb
(45,000 kg)
321,875 lb
(146,000 kg)
Wgt Diff
+222,667 lb
(+101,000 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Boeing C-135 Stratolifter production variant)
Installed: R/T Models: 4 x CFM International CFM56 turbofan engines developing 21,635lb of thrust each; E Models: 4 x Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-102 turbofan engines developing 18,000lb of thrust each.
Max Speed
581 mph
(935 kph | 505 kts)
49,869 ft
(15,200 m | 9 mi)
3,449 mi
(5,550 km | 2,997 nm)
5,000 ft/min
(1,524 m/min)

♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base Boeing C-135 Stratolifter production variant. Performance specifications showcased above are subject to environmental factors as well as aircraft configuration. Estimates are made when Real Data not available. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database or View aircraft by powerplant type)

Supported Types

(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
C-135 "Stratoflifter" - Base Series Designation.
C-135A (717-157) - Initial production model; J57-P-59W turbojet engines; 18 aircraft built.
C-135B (717-158) - Based in C-135A though with TF33-P-5 turbofan engines; lengthened tailplanes.
C-135C - C-135B aircraft modified to WC-135B standard; air-to-air refueling capability.
C-135E - Upgraded A-models with TF33-PW-102 turbofan engines; lengthened tailplanes.
C-135F (717-164) - French aerial tanker/transport role hybrid; 12 examples completed.
C-135K - EC-135K modified for VIP service; single example.
C-135FR - French C-135F with CFM56 turbofan engines.
KC-135 "Stratotanker" - Aerial tanker variant.
EC-135 - Airborne Command Post special-mission platform of 1965; out of service.
NC-135 - Special test missions aircraft; notable dorsal fairing; in active service with USAF and USN.
RC-135 - Airborne reconnaissance platform.
OC-135B "Open Skies" - Observation Support/ Support Open Skies Treaty aircraft of 1993; three examples for USAF.
WC-135 "Constant Phoenix" - Atmospheric nuclear testing platform; model of 1965; serving USAF; 10 built from WC-135B model stock with single example converted from EC-135C stock; two airframes in service.
VC-135B - VIP passenger transports modified from C-135B stock; five examples.

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Ukranian-Russian War
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft

Images Gallery

1 / 1
Image of the Boeing C-135 Stratolifter
Image from the United States Air Force; Released to the Public.

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Chart Military Ranks DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content; site is 100% curated by humans.

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org (World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft), WDMMW.org (World Directory of Modern Military Warships), SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane, and MilitaryRibbons.info, cataloguing military medals and ribbons. Special Interest: RailRoad Junction, the locomotive encyclopedia.

©2023 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2023 (20yrs)