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VC-135B Command Support Aircraft [CSA]

The USAF C-135B is a long-range, high performance, transport aircraft powered by four TF33-P-5 turbofan engines. The VC-135B aircraft were built as TF33-engined C-135 Stratolifters, but were later converted into a VC-135B for the special 89th Military Airlift Wing. Five VC-135's came to the 89th MAWg (now the 89th Airlift Wing) at Andrews AFB, just southeast of Washington beginning in 1966. The VC-135's were cargo versions of the KC-135 tanker converted to passenger use. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara had brought them to Andrews because, with nearly all the fuel tanks of the KC-135 and with turbofan engines, they could fly from AAFB to Southeast Asia (SEA) non-stop.

A total of five Boeing C-135B-BN Stratolifters were acquired in 1962 and later converted to the VC-135B configuration.

  • 62-4125 was converted to VC-135B. It later reverted to C-135B, and was subsequently modified to MDS RC-135W 'Rivet Joint" electronic intelligence aircraft.
  • 62-4126 was converted to VC-135B. 62-4126 First flew on 18th May 1962. Delivered on 29th May 1962. Assigned in 1967 to 1st MAS 89th MAW at Andrews AFB. Configured with a VIP interior and redesignated VC-135B. Redesignated C-135B on 1st December 1977 under the Carter Administration's "low profile" effort. Transferred in September 1991 to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB as a Command Support Aircraft [CSA]. Since transferred to the 21st AF at McGuire AFB for an unidentified transport mission, possibly with the On-Site Inspection Agency (OSIA) or for discreet VIP operations, with crews from the 141st AREFS 108th AREFW, New Jersey ANG.Began conversion to TC-135S in January 2004. By November 2006 it had been converted to an RC-135W.
  • 62-4127 was converted to VC-135B. Following service as a passenger aircraft with MATS, the C-135B was modified for VIP duties with the 89th MAW at Andrews AFB, Maryland, and later as a command support aircraft at Offutt AFB. Latter 24137 was assigned to det 1/89th AW at Hickam AFB, Hawaii for the CinC PACAF. It was withdrawn at the end of the 1980s, and was with Raytheon for many years undergoing a lengthy modification to TC-135W standard. During the latter half of 2005, the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska received their third RC-135 trainer, when TC-135W 62-4127 was delivered to the unit following modification at Raytheon's E-Systems Division at Greenville, Texas.
  • 62-4129 was converted to VC-135B. It was later configured as TC-135W flight crew trainer for Rivet Joint (RC-135V/W) crews. Has no intelligence-gathering equipment.
  • 62-4130 was converted to VC-135B. It later reverted to C-135B and was subsequently modified to MDS RC-135W 'Rivet Joint' electronic intelligence aircraft.
Initially the VC-135Bs were definitely spartan. They had no windows, the bulkheads were originally painted plywood, while the sleeping bunks were fabricated of square tubular iron and plywood. By 1972 work was under way to design a completely new interior - storage, sitting areas, sleeping quarters, galleys, etc. In late 1977, as part of the efforts of the Carter Administration to expunge remnants of the Nixon "Imperial Presidency," the five VC-135's were repainted in a bland white and gold livery. Then in 1981, at the beginning of the Reagan Administration, they reverted to an Air Force One-like livery.

Many of the flights on the U.S. Air Force VC-135B aircraft were very long and the plane might be full or nearly so on every leg. Travellers on these flights were advised that carry-on items should be limited. Overseas purchases that did not fit in baggage should be mailed home since there was no extra cargo space. Because interior aircraft temperatures may vary from wam to cool, and because of the length of the flights, passengers were cautioned to plan to dress casually on travel days in something adaptable to differing climates.

Later they were used for various special executive transport assignments, including USAF Europe based at Ramstein AB, Germany. Rivet King was the Air Force project to modify Boeing VC-135B transports. All but 62-4126, which was assigned to the 21st AF at McGuire AFB in New Jersey, were later reconfigured to fly reconnaissance missions.



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