To fuel these bombers on their way, SAC employed the Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker, first flown in 1950. Unfortunately, the dawn of the air-to-air refueling era in the USAF coincided with the dawn of the jet era, and ungainly-looking, waddling Stratotankers were soon tasked with topping off the tanks on sleek, swept-wing B-47 Stratojets and then the new B-52 Stratofortresses.
|The bulbous "double-decker" look is because it was developed from the C-97 Stratofreighter, a cargo-carrying development of the B-29/B-50. If it looks familiar, it's because the civilian variant, the Boeing 377 airliner, was the aircraft from which the famous "Super Guppies" were made.|
Even with four Pratt & Whitney radials churning the air with 14,000 combined horsepower, the difference in airspeed between the flying gas station and its customers was such that various tricks were employed to match airspeeds more closely, such as the B-52 lowering flaps and its rear landing gear, or refueling in a shallow dive.
|On the left, a four-row Wasp Major: 28 cylinders displacing 4,362½ cubic inches and thundering out 3,500 supercharged horsepower. On the right: a hair dryer.|