In the first half of a two-part feature, Combat Aircraft looks at the service record of the US Air Force C-135 family as it reaches 64 years of service.

HUNDREDS OF BOEING employees looked on as the first KC-135A Stratotanker emerged from the Renton production facility on Wednesday, July 18, 1956. In gleaming bare metal, serial 55-3118 was parked adjacent to a KC-97G to enable the workforce, assembled guests, and members of the press, to appreciate the major advances offered by the Stratotanker over its predecessor. Just eight years later, in the final days of 1964, the last example — KC-135B serial 64-14849 — was rolled out. Amazingly, a new aircraft was coming off the production line every three or four days alongside B-52 Stratofortress bombers and jet airliners. Production totaled some 820 aircraft for the USAF, together with a further dozen for the French Air Force.

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