Boeing C-135 Stratolifter Family

The Boeing C-135 derived from the prototype Boeing 367-800 airliner. It has a narrower and shorter fuselage than the Boeing 707. The aircraft has been given the internal designation of Model 717. The first built model in 1965 saw other variants of it after the first model and has been a fixture of the United States Airforce.
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C-135 Family Variants


Fifteen C-135As were built powered with Pratt and Whitney J57 turbojets. In later years almost every C-135A aircraft were upgraded to C-135Es which was designated to the new variant “E” model after upgraded engines to Pratt and Whitney TF33 turbofan engines and wide-span tails. Most “E” models were converted to do special jobs, including Airborn command posts, missile tracking platforms and VIP transportation. Later they were withdrawn throughout the 1990s.


Thirty C-135Bs were built using the same engines and wide-span tail as the C-135E. The C-135B included newer technology however ten were converted to weather reconnaissance aircraft used for flying through radioactive clouds from nuclear tests or other agents. It was then designated WC-135B Stratolifter. Additional airframes were converted to RC-135s from 1970 to 2006 and still remain in service with further equipment upgrades installed.


The C-135C aircraft are three WC-135B weather reconnaissance aircraft which were converted back to transport status and redesignated to C-135C. Most of the other C-135Bs were various special missions following their service with the Military Airlift Command. Most of the remaining C-135 aircraft are now used for high ranking Military personal however the C-135C is a communications aircraft which serves as an aerial l test-bed for emerging technologies. Developmental tests with this aircraft demonstrate the capability of flying precision approaches using a local area differential GPS system. The C-135C is fitted with a millimetre wave camera and a radome to test the camera’s generation of video images of the forward scene in low visibility conditions.

Speckled Trout

This modified C-135C got its official name Speckled Trout after the mission Speckled Trout a SAF/CSAF support mission and test mission. The modified C-135C was used by the Secretary and the Chief of Staff of the Airforce. Fully equipped with an array of communications equipment, data links and cryptographic sets, the aircraft served a secondary role as a testbed for proposed command and control systems. The aircraft was also used to evaluate future transport aircraft design, the 412th Flight Test Squadron (412 FLTS) of the Airforce Material Command (AFMC) at Edwards AFB operates the C-135C Speckled Trout airframe and manages its test missions.

Speckled Trout official retired on the 13th of January 2006. An intermit airframe was used for the speckled Trout missions until the 2008 delivery of the KC-135R Strato Tanker.


The C-135F were newly built aircraft which are used by France as a dual-role tanker/cargo and troop carrier aircraft.


One former EC-135K modified for VIP use for CINCPAC.


Eleven French C-135F tanker aircraft modified with four CFM56 engines.


The Boeing EC-135 was a command and control version of the C-135. During the cold war, the EC-135 was best known for being modified to perform the looking glass mission where one EC-135 was always airborne 24 hours a day to serve as a flying command post in the event of a nuclear war. Various other EC-135 aircraft sat on airborne and ground alert throughout the Cold War, with the last EC-135C being retired in 1998. The EC-135N variant served as a tracking aircraft for the Apollo Program

NC-135 & NKC-135

The Boeing NC-135 and NKC-135 are special variants of the C-135 and KC-135 modified to operate on several different programs. Three NC-135 aircraft were configured as flying laboratories by Sandia National Laboratories to support atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons and were based at Kirtland Airforce base.

Big Crow is the designation of the two NKC-135 test-beds heavily modified for electronic warfare testing. These planes were also used as a target simulator for flight testing the Boeing YAL-1 Airborn Laser.

One aircraft has been modified as an NC-135W to test systems and equipment used on RC-135V and W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft.

OC-135B (Open Skies)

The OC-135B is an observation aircraft which supports the Treaty on Open Skies for the United States Airforce. The aircraft is a modified WC-135B which fly’s unarmed observation flights over participating parties of the treaty. Three OC-135B aircraft were modified by the Aeronautical Systems Center’s 4950th test wing at Wright-Patterson Airforce Base in Ohio and was assigned to the 24th Reconnaissance Squadron at Ofutt Airforce base in October 1993. The aircraft is now fitted with a basic set of navigational and sensor equipment. Two fully operational OC-135B aircraft were delivered in 1996 with the full complement of Treaty-allowed sensors while the third was placed in inviolate storage at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Airforce Base near Tucson, Arizona in 1997.


About the RC-135
The first RC-135 variant, RC-135A, was ordered in 1962 to replace the Boeing RB-50 Superfortress. There were originally nine orders however it was later reduced to four aircraft. Boeing designated the variant as Boeing 739-700 but they were a modified variant of the KC-135A. They used the same Pratt and Whitney J57 turbojet engines as the tanker. They carry cameras in a bay near the nose wheel where the forward fuel tank would usually be. The aircraft was not equipped with in-flight refuelling system and were used for photography and surveying. The RC-135A was the first designated aircraft in the RC-135 family however it was not the first RC-135 in service. That distinction belongs to the RC-135S which began operational reconnaissance missions in 1961. Followed by the RC-135D in 1962.

RC-135 Varients

Four RC-135A aircraft were used as photo mapping platforms which were briefly utilized by the Air Photographic Service and Chartering Service based at Turner Airforce base, Georgia and then later at Forbes Airforce base, Kansas as part of the 1370th Photographic Mapping Wing. Soon after the missions were assumed by satellites and the aircraft were de-modified and used as staff transporters. In the early 1980s, they were converted into tankers with the designation KC-135D but due to delays in reinstalling their equipment, the KC-135As were the last of the entire C-135 series delivered to the USAF.


The as-delivered version of the RC-135 was never used operationally because it never came with mission equipment. The entire RC-135B consisting of ten aircraft were delivered directly to Martin Aircraft in Baltimore, Maryland where they were installed with equipment for missions under the big safari program. Upon completion, the aircraft were Redesignated RC-135C.

RC-135C (Big Team)

The RC-135C is a modified and re-designated RC-135B aircraft used for reconnaissance duties. Equipped with the AN/ASD-1 electronic intelligence (ELINT) the system was characterized by the large ‘cheek’ pods on the forward fuselage containing the Automated ELINT Emitter Locating System (AEELS – not Side Looking Airborne Radar – SLAR) and the numerous antennae and a camera position in the refuelling pod. The aircraft is crewed with two pilots, two navigators, numerous intelligence gathering, inflight maintenance technicians and airborne linguists. When the RC-135C was fully deployed, SAC was able to retire their fleet of RB-47H stratojets from active duty. All ten continue in active service as either RC-135V Rivet Joint or RC-135U Combat Sent platforms.

RC-135D (Office Boy / Rivet Brass)

The RC-135Ds were originally designated KC-135A-II and the first reconnaissance configured C-135s given the “R” MDS designation. They were not the first reconnaissance tasked members of the C-135 family. They were delivered to Eielson airforce base, Alaska in 1962 as part of the Office Boy Project. The aircraft began operational missions in 1963. The three RC-135D aircraft were originally ordered as KC-135A aircraft tankers, but delivered without refuelling booms and known as “false C-135As”. Pending of the first actual RC-135A cargo aircraft in 1961. The primary Rivet Brass mission flew along the northern border of the Soviet Union and often used as a shuttle mission between RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire and later RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk UK. The RC-135D was also used in Southeast Asia during periods when the RC-135M was unavailable. In the late 1970s, with the expansion of the RC-135 fleet powered with TF33 turbofan engines, the RC-135Ds were converted into tankers and remained in service as receiver-capable KC-135Rs.

RC-135E (Lisa Ann / Rivet Amber)

This aircraft was originally designated C-135B-II with the project name Lisa Ann. The RC-135E Rivet Amber was a one of a kind aircraft equipped with a large 7 MW Hughes Aircraft phased-array radar system and was operated from Shemya Airforce Station, Alaska from 1966 to 1969. The radar system alone weighed 35,000 pounds (15,875kg) and cost US$35 million. Which made the Rivet Amber the heaviest C-135-derivative aircraft flying and the most expensive Air Force aircraft for its time. Its mission was to monitor Soviet ballistic testing in the re-entry phase. Unfortunately, on June 5, 1969 Rivet Amber was lost at sea on a ferry flight from Shemya to Eielson Airforce Base for maintenance. No trace of the crew or its aircraft was ever found.

RC-135M (Rivet Card)

The RC-135M was an interim type offering more limited ELINT capability but with extensive additional COMINT capability. The RC-135Ms were converted from Military Command C-135B Transports and were operated by the 82d Reconnaissance Squadron during the Vietnam War from Kadena AB gather signals intelligence over the Gulf of Tonkin and Laos with the program named Combat Apple (originally called Burning Candy) there were six RC-135M aircraft which were all later modified to continue in active service as RC-135Ws.

RC-135S (Nancy Ray / Wanda Belle / Rivet Ball)

Rivet Ball was the predecessor program to Cobra Ball and was initiated with a single RC-135S on December 31, 1961. The aircraft was first operated under Nancy Ray project as an asset for the Air Force Systems Command and later used as an RC-135S reconnaissance platform with Strategic Air Command under project Wanda Belle. The name Rivet Ball was assigned in January 1967. The aircraft was operated from Shemya AFB, Alaska along with most other RC-135 Varients. The RC-135S had an elongated nose radome housing an S-band receiving antenna. The aircraft was characterized by ten large optically flat quartz windows on the right side of the fuselage used for tracking cameras. Unlike the other RC-135S’s, Rivet Ball also had a plexiglass dome mounted top centre on its fuselage for the Manual Tracker position. Unfortunately, Rivet Ball was destroyed in a landing accident at Shemya when it overran the runway with no fatalities.

RC-135S (Cobra Ball)

The RC-135S Cobra Ball is a measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) collecter equipped with special electro-optical instruments designed to observe long-range ballistic missile flights. The Cobra Ball monitors missile-associated signals and tracks missiles during boost and re-entry phases to provide reconnaissance for treaty verification and theatre ballistic missile proliferation. These aircraft are extensively modified C-135B aircraft. The right wing and engines are traditionally painted black to reduce sun glare for tracking cameras. There are three aircraft in service and they are apart of the 55th Wing, 45th Reconnaissance Squadron based at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Cobra Ball aircraft were originally assigned to Shemya and used to observe ballistic missile tests on the Kamchatka Peninsula in conjunction with Cobra Dane and Cobra Judy. Two aircraft were converted for Cobra Ball in 1969 and following the loss of an aircraft in 1981. Another aircraft was converted in 1983 with the sole RC-135X which was also converted into an RC-135S in 1995 to supplement the other aircraft.

RC-135T (Rivet Dandy)

A KC-135T was modified into an RC-135T Rivet Dandy configuration in 1979. The aircraft was used to supplement the RC-135C/D/M fleet and operated under the operation Burning Candy. In 1973 the aircraft’s SIGNIT gear was removed and transferred to KC-135R to assume the role of a trainer, a role which it fulfilled for the remainder of its existence. The aircraft retained it’s ‘hog nose’ radome and some other external modifications. The aerial refuelling boom and trapeze below the tail were removed and it had no operational reconnaissance role. In its new configuration, the aircraft operated variously with the 376th Strategic Wing at Kadena AB, Okinawa, the 305th AREFW at Grissom AFB, Indiana, and the 6th Strategic Wing at Eielson AFB, Alaska. In 1982 the aircraft was modified with Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW102 engines and other modification common to the KC-135E tanker program and returned to Eielson AFB. It crashed while on approach to Valdez Airport, Alaska on the 25th February 1985 with the loss of 3 crew members. The wreckage was not found until August 1985, six months after the accident.

RC-135U (Combat Sent)

The RC-135U Combat Sent is designed to collect technical intelligence on adversary radar emitter systems. Combat Sent data is collected to develop new or upgraded radar warning receivers, radar jammers, decoys, anti-radiation missiles and training simulators. The aircraft is distinctively identified by the antenna arrays on the fuselage chin, tailcone and wingtips. Three RC-135C aircraft were converted into RC-135U aircraft in the early 1970s however one of the three aircraft were into Rivet Joint in 1978 and all aircraft remained in service based at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Minimum crew requirements are 2 pilots, 2 navigators, 3 systems engineers, 10 electronic warfare officers and 6 area specialists.

RC-135V/W (Rivet Joint)

The RC-135V/W is the USAF’s standard airborne SIGINT platform. Missions flown by the RC-135s are designated either Burning Wind or Misty Wind. A sensor suite allows the mission crew to detect, identify and geolocate signals throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. The mission crew can then forward the gathered information in a variety of formats to a wide range of consumers via Rivet Joint’s extensive communications suite. Rivet Joint airframe and mission modifications are performed by L-3 Communications in Greenville Texas under the oversight of the airforce material command. The crew consists of the cockpit crew, electronic warefare officers, intelligence operators, and airborne systems maintenance personnel.

RC-135X (Cobra Eye)

The sole RC-135X was converted during the mid to late 1980s from a C-135B Telemetry/Range Instrumented Aircraft with the mission of tracking ICBM reentry vehicles. In 1993, it was converted into an additional RC-135S Cobra Ball.

RC-135W Rivet Joint (Project Airseeker)

The United Kingdom bought three KC-135R aircraft for conversion to RC-135W Rivet Joint standard under the Project Airseeker. The price of the three requested aircraft was budgeted at £634m, with entry into service in October 2014. The aircraft formed No.51 Squadron RAF, based at RAF Waddington along with the RAF’s other ISTAR assets. They are expected to remain in service until 2045. Previously the RAF used Nimrod R1 aircraft to gather signals intelligence. When the time came to upgrade the maritime Nimrods to MRA4 Standard. Project Helix was launched, starting August 2003 to study options for extending the life of the R1 out to 2025. The option of switching to Rivet Joint was added to Helix in 2008. The retirement of the R1 became inevitable when the MRA4 was cancelled under the UK’s 2010 Budget Cuts. The R1’s involvement over Libya in Operation Ellamy delayed its retirement until 2011.

Helix became Project Airseeker, under which three KC-135R airframes are being converted to RC-135W standard by L-3 Communications. L-3 will also provide ongoing maintenance and upgrades under a long-term agreement. The three airframes are former USAF KC-135s, all of which first flew in 1964 but will be modified to the latest RC-135W standard before delivery. The three airframes on offer to the UK are the youngest KC-135s in the USAF fleet. As of September 2010, the aircraft had approximately 23,200 flying hours, 22,200 hours and 23,200 hours.

No.51 Sqn personnel began training at Offutt in January 2011 for conversion to the RC-135. The first RC-135W was delivered ahead of schedule to the Royal Air Force on 12 November 2013, for final approval and testing by the Defence Support and Equipment team prior to its release to service from the UK MAA. The second one was once again delivered ahead of schedule on 4 September 2015 at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk. The third was delivered in June 2017.


Three TC-135 aircraft are in service for crew training and lack fully functional mission equipment. One of the TC-135s provides training capability for the Cobra Ball mission. It is distinguishable from combat-ready aircraft by the lack of cheeks on the forward fuselage. It was converted from an EC-135B in 1985 following the crash of the former RC-135T which had been used as a trainer up to that point. In addition, two TC-135Ws serve as training aircraft primarily for the Rivet Joint mission, but can also provide some training capability for RC-135U Combat Sent crews. They carry considerably fewer antennas than the fully equipped aircraft but are otherwise similar in appearance to other Rivet Joint aircraft.

WC-135 (Constant Pheonix)

The WC-135 is a special purpose aircraft derived from the C-135 Stratolifter and used by the United States Airforce. Its mission is to collect samples from the atmosphere for the purpose of detecting and identifying nuclear explosions It is also informally referred to as the Weather Bird or the Sniffer by workers on the program and international media respectively. The WC-135B and WC-135W Constant Phoenix atmospheric-collection aircraft support national-level intelligence consumers by collecting particulate debris and gaseous effluents from accessible regions of the atmosphere in support of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963. The Constant Phoenix’s modifications are primarily related to the aircraft’s onboard atmospheric collection suite, which allows the mission crew to detect radioactive debris “clouds” in real time. The aircraft is equipped with external flow-through devices to collect particulates on filter paper and a compressor system for whole air samples collected in high-pressure holding spheres. Despite the different designations, both the C and W carry the same mission equipment (similar to the RC-135V and W aircraft). The interior seats 33 people, including the cockpit crew, maintenance personnel, and special equipment operators from the Air Force Technical Applications Center. On operational sorties, the crew is minimized to just pilots, navigator, and special-equipment operators, to reduce radiation exposure to mission-essential personnel only.

Specifications & Performance

General Characteristics
  • Crew 3: pilot, copilot, loadmaster (4 for non-PACER CRAG aircraft)

  • Length: 136ft 3 in (41.53 m)

  • Wingspan: 130 ft 10 in (39.88 m)

  • Height: 41 ft 8 in (12.70 m)

  • Wing area: 2,433 ft² (226 m²)

  • Empty weight: 98,466 lb (44,663 kg)

  • Loaded weight: 297,000 lb (135,000 kg)

  • Max. Takeoff Weight: 322,500 lb (146,000 kg)

  • Powerplant 4 × (R/T) CFM International CFM56 high-bypass turbofan engines, 21,634 lbf (96 kN) each (re-engined variants)

  • Powerplant: 4× (E) Pratt & Whitney TF-33-PW-102 low-bypass turbofan engines , 18,000 lbf
    (80 kN) each

  • Maximum speed: 580 mph (933 km/h)
  • Range: 3,450 mi (5,550 km)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,200 m)
  • Rate of climb: 4,900 ft/min (1,490 m/min)
General Characteristics
  • Length: 136ft 3in (41.53m)

  • Wingspan: 130ft 10in (39.88m)

  • Height: 41ft 8in (12.70m)

  • Wing area: 2,433 ft² (226 m²)

  • Empty weight: 175,000 lb (V/W models) (79,545 kg)

  • Loaded weight: 297,000 lb (135,000 kg)

  • Max. takeoff weight 322,500 lb (146,000 kg)

  • Powerplant: 4x CFM international F-108-CF-201 turbofan engines, 22,000 lbf (96 kN) each

  • Maximum speed: 580mph (933 km/h)

  • Range: 3,450 mi (5,550 km)

  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,200 m)

  • Rate of climb: 4,900 ft/min (1,490 m/min)

WC-135 (Constant Pheonix)
General Characteristics
  • Crew: varies with mission

  • Length: 139 ft 11 in (42.6 m)

  • Wingspan: 130 ft 10 in (39.9 m)

  • Height: 42 ft (12.8 m)

  • Wing area: 2,433 ft² (226 m²)

  • Max. Takeoff weight: 300,500 lb (136,300 kg)

  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-5 (WC-135W); Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-9 (WC-135C) turbofan, 16,050 lbf (71.4 kN) each

  • Maximum speed: 350 KIAS (648 km/h)

  • Range: 4000 miles (6437 km)

  • Service ceiling: 40,000 ft (12,200 m)

  • Wing loading: 123.5 lb/ft² (603 kg/m²)

  • Thrust/Weight: 0.21

Why is this a great addition to Infinite Flight?
I believe this would be a great addition to Infinite Flight because this aircraft is the reason why our military aircraft are like how they are today. This plane has helped with many designs and even helped with GPS approach systems. If it wasn’t for this aircraft we wouldn’t have the advanced technologies today. This aircraft made lots of contributions to the designs and workings of the aircraft in Infinite Flight.

Wow excellent post! That looks like a work horse my friend… you’ve got my vote brother


Got my vote would love as the RC135

This aircraft has so much potential that IF could do.


I will add the RC-135 today just ran out of time when writing this


A great post James, very detailed !:)


Update: More Added Variants/info
More Coming Soon!


All varients have been added!
enjoy the reading and make sure to vote!

@RotorGuy @RonnyMartin @ZaneDavis


The engines look like 747-200. It’s a wierd design

1 Like

We could do with the RC-135 For GAF EAF