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Boeing C-137 Stratoliner

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Title: Boeing C-137 Stratoliner  
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Subject: Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, Boeing E-3 Sentry, Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, Boeing 707, Boeing OC-135B Open Skies
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Boeing C-137 Stratoliner

C-137 Stratoliner
A VC-137B Stratoliner aircraft taking off in 1981
Role Passenger/VIP transport
Manufacturer Boeing
First flight 31 December 1958
Status Active service
Primary user United States Air Force
Produced 1954-1965
Developed from Boeing 707
Variants Boeing CC-137
Boeing E-3 Sentry
Boeing E-6 Mercury
Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS
VC-137C SAM 26000
VC-137C SAM 27000

The Boeing C-137 Stratoliner was a VIP transport aircraft derived from the Boeing 707 jet airliner used by the United States Air Force. Other nations also bought both new and used 707s for military service, primarily as VIP or tanker transports. In addition, the 707 served as the basis for several specialized versions, such as the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft. The designation C-18 covers several later variants based on the 707-320B/C series.


USAF procurement of the Boeing 707 was very limited, amounting to three Model 707-153s designated VC-137A. When delivered in 1959 these had four 13,500 lb (6123 kg) dry thrust Pratt & Whitney J57 (JT3C6) turbojets; when subsequently re-engined with 18,000 lbf (80.1 kN) dry thrust TF33-P-5 (JT3D) turbofans they were redesignated VC-137B. Only one other variant served with the USAF: this was the VC-137C Air Force One Presidential transport, the two examples of which were Model 707-320B Intercontinentals with specialized interior furnishings and advanced communications equipment. Two further non-presidential C-137C aircraft were later added.[1]

To supplement its VC-137s, the USAF converted several C-135 airframes to VC-135 VIP standard, and these were used for staff transport mainly within the United States.[1]



An EC-18B Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA) takes off on its first flight at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, following its conversion from a Boeing 707-320.

The C-18 is the US military designation for the conversions of the 707-320B series.

Eight second-hand (former American Airlines) 707-323Cs bought as crew trainers for the EC-18Bs, four later converted to EC-18B, two converted to EC-18D, one to C-18B; one was not taken into service and was used for spares.
One C-18A modified with instrumentation and equipment to support the Military Strategic and Tactical Relay System (MILSTAR).[2]
Four C-18As modified alongside examples of the C-135 for Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA) missions in support of the Apollo space program.[2] The designation E-7 was originally applied to modified Boeing 707s before being replaced by the EC-18 designation.[3]
Original designation for two prototype J-STAR aircraft, later redesignated E-8A.
Two C-18As modified as a Cruise Missile Mission Control Aircraft (CMMCA).[2]
Two second-hand (former Trans World Airlines) 707-331 aircraft modified for E-3 pilot and crew training.[2]
Two second-hand (former TAP Portugal) 707-382 aircraft modified for E-6 pilot training.[2]

C-137 Stratoliner

Spectators watch one of two C-137B Stratoliner aircraft returning freed hostages after their release from Iran in 1981
VC-137C SAM 27000 (Air Force One) parked on the tarmac at the Venice Marco Polo Airport, Italy in 1987

The USAF purchased a number of 707s under the C-137 series of designations:

Three 707-153s with a 22-passenger VIP interior and provision for use as an airborne command post, re-designated VC-137B.
The three VC-137As re-engined with four Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3 engines, operated by the 89th Military Airlift Wing, redesignated C-137B.
The three VC-137Bs redesignated when downgraded from VIP role.
Two 707-353Bs were purchased by the USAF (one in 1961 and one in 1972) for service as presidential transports with call signs SAM 26000 and SAM 27000; later redesignated C-137C.
The two VC-137Cs were redesignated when downgraded from presidential use. Two further C-137Cs were acquired by the USAF, one 707-396C (a seized aircraft formerly used for arms smuggling acquired in 1985) and one 707-382B bought second hand in 1987.
Two aircraft built as Early Warning and Control System prototypes. Later re-engined and re-designated E-3A. A further second-hand 707-355C aircraft was acquired and configured as an airborne special operations command post.

Other US variants

Boeing E-3 Sentry
Airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft that provides all-weather surveillance, command, control and communications, to the United States, NATO and other air defense forces. Based on the 707-320B, production ended in 1992 after 68 had been built.
Boeing E-6 Mercury
A version of the 707-320, it operates as an airborne command post and communications center, relaying instructions from the National Command Authority. Its role in relaying to the fleet ballistic missile submarines, known as "Take Charge and Move Out", gives it the suffix TACAMO (). Only one version of the E-6 currently exists, the E-6B. The E-6B is an upgraded version of the E-6A that now includes a battlestaff area for the USSTRATCOM Airborne Command Post
Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS
The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is a USAF airborne battle management and command and control (C2) platform that conducts ground surveillance to develop an understanding of the enemy situation and to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.
NATO Trainer-Cargo Aircraft (TCA) operated to support E-3A AWACS training and air transport/cargo for NATO (NAEW&CF) based on Boeing 707-320B.[4]

Variants of other militaries

An Italian Air Force Boeing 707T/T refuels two MB-339 in a demonstration
CC-137 Husky
Canadian Forces designation for the 707-347C. Five were purchased new in 1970.
Brazilian Air Force[5][6]
IRIAF operates 707 Tankers and Transports.
The 707 Tanker/Transport. Italy purchased and converted four 707s, two to tankers and two to a straight freighter. No 707 tankers remains operational as of 3 April 2008.[7] Also, Omega Aerial Refueling Services operates K707 tankers for lease.[8]
The Royal Saudi Air Force purchased eight E-3 airframes configured as aerial refueling tankers.
Airborne Early Warning, Command and Control (AEWC&C) aircraft developed in conjunction with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) using a former Lan Chile aircraft.


 United States

Aircraft on display

58-6971 on display

The following aircraft are on public display:

Specifications (VC-137C)

General characteristics


See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ a b Gunston, Bill. The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes, p. 64. Aerospace Publishing Ltd, 1995. ISBN 1-56619-908-5.
  2. ^ a b c d e Model Designation of Military Aerospace Vehicles, United States Department of Defense, DoD 4120.15L
  3. ^ Parsch, Andreas. "Missing" USAF/DOD Aircraft Designations.
  4. ^ "DOD 4120.15-L - Addendum". US DOD via Andreas Parsch, 
  5. ^ "Estimating KC-137 Aircraft Ownership Costs in the Brazilian Air Force", Defense Technical Information Center
  6. ^ Brazilian Air Force information at Milavia
  7. ^ Aeronautica Militare official site
  8. ^ Omega K707 Civilian Tanker
  9. ^ VC-137BMuseum of Flight:
  10. ^ USAF VC-137BPima Air & Space Museum:

External links

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