reply to post by Witness2008
Or it has to do with the fact that they're available in very limited numbers, and are also used for cargo hauling missions as well as for refueling.
There are two types of tankers in use by the USAF, the KC-135, and the KC-10. The KC-135 average age is 40+, the last ones were built in 1968. That
means a lot of time on the ground getting inspections done, and having maintenance done on them because they're getting so old.
If a KC-135 is transferring off 150,000 pounds of fuel (at 6.8lbs/gallon that's a little over 22,000 gallons), it can't even fly from Hawaii to
California. We used to launch 12 fighters with 3-4 tankers minimum going with them, depending on how far they had to go. If they were going to
Japan, or the east coast, it was 6 tankers, two would refuel them to about the halfway point then turn around and come back. It takes a lot of tanker
support to move a fighter unit. If you're talking about refueling something like a C-5, you're talking 3 minimum. That doesn't even count the
tankers being used as medevacs, hauling cargo, the ones that are at the depot for major maintenance, the ones that are just broken......
As of 2002, there were 545 KC-135s, that number has decreased since then however, and as of 2008 there are 451. There were only 60 KC-10s ever built,
with one being lost in a ground fire. It takes one KC-10 to move 6 fighters from Hawaii to California, unless we're talking AV-8Bs, in which case it
takes 3 to move 6, and almost a 1-1 with a KC-135.
The USAF has always been chronically short of tanker and airlift support to move things around with. There are a bunch of KC-135s that they CAN NOT
retire (because they have to show a certain number of aircraft in inventory) that all they do is move them around the ramp once a month, change tires,
and run engines. They are incapable of flying, but they still show up as being in the inventory because they're still "active" by being moved.
And yes, that is a spraying device in the article, it is used by ONE KC-135R that flies out of Edwards AFB to spray water on other planes to see how
they handle icing conditions in flight.
As for the "white KC-135s" especially the ones at Tinker AFB, they aren't KC-135s. They're US Navy E-6B TACAMO aircraft. They are based on the
707 airframe, so they LOOK like KC-135s, but they aren't refueling aircraft, they're command and control aircraft. There are several different
types of aircraft the US military uses based on the 707. Many are VIP transports, including several that are painted white so that they don
t fly into less than friendly countries in planes marked "United States of America" on them. As well as the E-8 Joint STARS plane that uses radar
to track ground targets, and several others.
[edit on 5/11/2008 by Zaphod58]