61-0293

last modified February 27, 2014
SR-71A #61-7955 being refueled from 61-0293, c. 1982. 61-0293 was the first KC-135 to be upgraded with the new CFM-56 engines, and was briefly used as a test bed to study the improvements in flight characteristics for refueling the SR-71. - USAF photo

In 1982, the US Air Force began a program of upgrading KC-135E's to KC-135R; 61-0293 was the first KC-135E to receive the KC-135R upgrade.  All surviving KC-135Q's eventually received the same upgrade, and were redesignated as KC-135T's afterwards.  The improved performance of the CFM-56 engine upgrade was crucial to the ongoing support of the SR-71.  Refuelling was normally done at a speed of about 325 knots.  As the blackbird took on more fuel, it became heavier, and had to fly faster, or with a higher angle of attack, in order to stay in formation with the tanker.  As the late General Doug Nelson once explained, "by the end of the refueling track, the blackbird was flying as slowly as it could, and the KC-135Q was flying as fast as it could!"  The upgraded engines gave the KC-135T more power, and with it the ability to fly faster at the same altitude.

January 1982 photo of 61-0293, just prior to being fitted with the upgraded CFM-56 engines -  Boeing photo

June 1982 photo of KC-135R #61-0293, during ground vibration testing. Note the vertical shaker positioned under the left wing tip. -  USAF photo

July 1984 photo of 61-0293 taking off, showing the new F108-CF-100 turbofan engines from the -R series upgrade.  Other improvements completed under the KC-135R moderization program include a new electrical generator system, strengthened main landing gear and anti-skid brakes.  - USAF photo

61-0293 is now assigned to the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.


Airmen from the 349th Air Refueling Squadron pose with children from Big Brothers Big Sisters Wichita in front of KC-135R 61-0293 on Dec. 20, 2013, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.  The children were given a tour of the base that ended with a surprise visit from "Santa" that included many of the gifts on their wish lists. - USAF photo by A1C Victor J. Caputo



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