1956 ... fill 'er up for the jet-age!

"... that's a pretty big pitot tube you got there big fella!"  

Introducing the Boeing KC-135 'Strato-tanker'! Next to nuclear weapons, the biggest development in strategic bombing was the perfection of aerial refueling. The idea had been played with from the earlier days of aviation. In the early 50's propeller driven KC-97's were in service. But the mis-match of speeds between props and the jets made an already tricky piece of flying a real nail-biter.

... the early development of long-range heavy lift jet aircraft for America was a military priority. Commercial jet ideas took a back-seat. This was not a big complaint for the airlines as early jet engines were unreliable and their high fuel consumption made them uneconomical. The 'Strato-tanker' came into service several years before it's slightly larger cousin the Boeing 707.

... the vital role of the tankers cannot be overstated. Their mission of refueling the bombers on their way to the target and on their return was a lynch-pin of the SAC's manned bomber deterrent.

all images- Right click- open in New Window= super colossal size!

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