Minicraft 1/144 KC-135R

KIT #: 14708
PRICE: $44.95 SRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2015 tooling


The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is a military aerial refueling aircraft. It and the Boeing 707 airliner were developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype. It is the predominant variant of the C-135 Stratolifter family of transport aircraft. The KC-135 was the US Air Force's first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97 Stratofreighter. The KC-135 was initially tasked with refueling strategic bombers, but was used extensively in the Vietnam War and later conflicts such as Operation Desert Storm to extend the range and endurance of US tactical fighters and bombers.

The KC-135 entered service with the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1957; it is one of six military fixed-wing aircraft with over 50 years of continuous service with its original operator. The KC-135 is supplemented by the larger KC-10. Studies have concluded that many of the aircraft could be flown until 2040, although maintenance costs have greatly increased. The aircraft will eventually be replaced by the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus.

The KC-135R is the result of a second engine modification program which retrofitted 500 aircraft with new CFM International CFM56 (military designation: F108) high-bypass turbofan engines produced by General Electric and Snecma. The CFM56 engine produces approximately 22,500 lbf (100 kN) of thrust, nearly a 100% increase compared to the original J-57 engine. The modified tanker, designated KC-135R (modified KC-135A or E) or KC-135T (modified KC-135Q), can offload up to 50% more fuel (on a long-duration sortie), is 25% more fuel-efficient, and costs 25% less to operate than with the previous engines. It is also significantly quieter than the KC-135A, with noise levels at takeoff reduced from 126 to 99 decibels.

I have hesitated at purchasing this and other 135 kits due to the high retail cost of the kit. However, I knew that at one time I'd end up buying one, especially after Caracal Models came out with a super decal sheet just for this kit. One of my infrequent hobby shop trips to one of the few open shops worth visiting in this area saw this one at $9 off retail so I bought it.

The first thing that caught my eye was the big red 'All new tooling!' on the box top. This is followed by 'Plus New "R" Engine Tooling!". Well, if it is ALL new, wouldn't that mean the engines as well? Obviously why I am not in advertising. However, it does bring up a point that there is an earlier boxing of this, #14708, which by inference is the old tooling.

Looking over the sprues, I was impressed by the detail work. The engraved lines are crisply done and though perhaps a bit overstated, Minicraft has included the rear fuselage external reinforcement bands. Not surprisingly, there is no cockpit at all. The only thing to put into the fuselage halves before joining them is a half ounce of weight and the nose gear well. It appears that one cannot install the nose gear strut after the fact so that will have to be added prior to closing the halves. At this time, the cockpit transparency is added.

The instructions then would have you attach the upper and lower wing halves, and then put those as well as the tailplanes and the HF antenna on the fin tip onto the fuselage before going any further in the build. Some of us might light to attach the built up engines first, but it seems that either way will work.

Engines are nicely done with eight pieces per engine. The front of the cowling attaches along an extant panel line and something I like is that it includes a sleeve so you won't see a cowling seam between the forward section and the fan. One will need to do some prepainting and masking on each of these, but the instructions provide information on the shades required.

When building the main gear and completing the wells, Minicraft provides three color options for the ballast tank in the main gear well. One will also have to fold the outer main gear doors and a diagram is provided to show how that is done. If one wants to model the plane gear up, there are instructinos for that as well. A neat touch is the inclusion of a tail prop, something that is often seen on fully loaded 135s.

A nice addition to this kit are a pair of wing tip pods. These are not always carried so it is nice to have a choice in this regard. One also ha to do a bit of trimming to attach the APU exhaust port, which fits within the fuselage reinforcement bands.

Instructions are nicely done and offer Model Master paint references for the overall airframe. The two markings options are overall AMC grey with a black radome and nose anti-glare panel. Markings are provided for two planes. The box art plane is from McConnell AFB in Kansas with the 22nd ARW in 2013. This seems to have the current tail band. The other is from the 126 ARW, Illinois ANG from nearby Scott AFB in 2005. It has the older tail band and unfortunately, does not include any of the nose art that was so prominent at the time. Decals are nicely done, but I'm wondering if the fuselage alignment stripe is not too orange. I always thought this was closer to yellow. I've included a photo so you can judge for yourself. As I mentioned earlier, there are aftermarket sheets for this kit and those will offer a bunch of additional options.


My experiences with Minicraft kits have been mixed. Most of the ones I've built have been a bit of a chore. I am hoping that the 'new tool' aspect of this one will make for a more pleasant experience. One thing for sure, Minicraft has cornered the market on 135 variants in this scale.


April 2017

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January 2011

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