Arms deal of the century

The tender battle between Boeing and Airbus has completed its third round (Boeing won 1st round,  battle was restarted, Airbus won 2nd round, battle was restarted, Boeing won 3rd round a few days ago).

This reminds me of the true "arms deal of the (20th) century"*; the C-135 "Stratolifter" and its key role as foundation for the airliner business success of Boeing. Hundreds of C-135 aircraft (and variants) were sold to the USAF. 


This aircraft (internally known as Boeing 717) also became the Boeing 707 a year later (both originated from the "Dash 80"). The Boeing 707 was the great breakthrough for turbojet-driven passenger air traffic after the Comet had experienced pressurized cabin problems. The USAF support for Boeing in form of huge C-135 sales was likely the key difference between Boeing and its competitors.

The Dash80/C-135/Boeing 707 also defined the dominant aircraft layout for airliners: swept wings, engine nacelles suspended blow the wings, normal swept tail and tubular pressurized fuselage. I have a book on aviation from the late 50's and I can tell you that people didn't consider this layout as self-evident then, while they do so today.

The new tanker competition won't be nearly as important as the choice of the C-135, not the least because it's backwards. This time the military aircraft will be based on a civilian aircraft. 
This seems to be true for many military orders nowadays.


*: "Arms deal of the century" is conventionally known as description for the F-16 tender, but that decision was much less important than the choice of the C-135.

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