Special Report

This Is the US Air Force's Oldest Aircraft

my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

The United States Air Force became a separate military service branch in 1947 after being part of the United States Army since 1907. Since its inception, America’s Air Force has always been the most powerful air power in the world, with a total of 4,211 active aircraft as of Sept. 30, 2021 – among them are some older aircraft. (These are the largest air forces in the world.)

While the Air Force is working to replace planes such as the B-2 Spirit with the Northrop Grumman-developed B-21 Raider, there are still plenty of aircraft that are defying time and remain in service.

To determine the U.S. Air Force’s oldest aircraft, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2022 USAF & USSF Almanac: Equipment, published in Air and Space Forces Magazine. We excluded aircraft used as trainers. All information is from the almanac.

All of the aircraft on this list are at least 34 years old. Seven of the 10 oldest planes are intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications aircraft and all are at least 57 years old. Those types of planes account for about half of the 30 oldest Air Force planes in service. (Also see, most expensive planes in the U.S. air force.)

Other categories represented among the oldest aircraft in the Air Force inventory are transport planes and fighter/attack jets. The latter category includes the A-10C Thunderbolt II, with 141 planes in active service, the most on the list. Second-most on the list is the KC-135R Stratotanker with 138 aircraft.

The venerable B-52H Stratofortress is the second-oldest plane on the list at 59.80 years. There are 58 B-52Hs in active service for the Air Force.

Click here to see the U.S. Air Force’s oldest aircraft.

Source: usairforce / Flickr

30. B-1B Lancer
> Average age in 2022: 34.40 years
> Aircraft in service: 45
> Active Air Force: 45
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Bomber

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Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

29. LC-130H Hercules
> Average age in 2022: 36.06 years
> Aircraft in service: 10
> Active Air Force: 0
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 10
> Type: Transport

28. C-12F Huron
> Average age in 2022: 36.25 years
> Aircraft in service: 3
> Active Air Force: 3
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Transport

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

27. QF-16A
> Average age in 2022: 36.27 years
> Aircraft in service: 66
> Active Air Force: 66
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Fighter/attack

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26. C-21A Learjet
> Average age in 2022: 36.50 years
> Aircraft in service: 19
> Active Air Force: 19
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Transport

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

25. F-15D Eagle
> Average age in 2022: 36.55 years
> Aircraft in service: 23
> Active Air Force: 9
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 14
> Type: Fighter/attack

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Source: Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

24. F-15C Eagle
> Average age in 2022: 36.72 years
> Aircraft in service: 209
> Active Air Force: 87
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 122
> Type: Fighter/attack

23. KC-10A Extender
> Average age in 2022: 36.79 years
> Aircraft in service: 48
> Active Air Force: 48
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Tanker

Source: Work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee/Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

22. TU-2S Dragon Lady (trainer)
> Average age in 2022: 36.92 years
> Aircraft in service: 4
> Active Air Force: 4
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

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21. C-12D Huron
> Average age in 2022: 37.43 years
> Aircraft in service: 6
> Active Air Force: 6
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Transport

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

20. U-2S Dragon Lady
> Average age in 2022: 38.85 years
> Aircraft in service: 27
> Active Air Force: 27
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

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Source: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images via Getty Images

19. A-10C Thunderbolt II
> Average age in 2022: 40.30 years
> Aircraft in service: 281
> Active Air Force: 141
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 140
> Type: Fighter/attack

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

18. TH-1H Iroquois (trainer)
> Average age in 2022: 40.53 years
> Aircraft in service: 28
> Active Air Force: 28
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Helicopter

17. E-3G Sentry (AWACS)
> Average age in 2022: 41.37 years
> Aircraft in service: 21
> Active Air Force: 21
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

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Source: U.S. Air Force / Public Domain

16. E-3B Sentry (AWACS)
> Average age in 2022: 43.53 years
> Aircraft in service: 10
> Active Air Force: 10
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

Source: usairforce / Flickr

15. C-12C Huron
> Average age in 2022: 45.17 years
> Aircraft in service: 16
> Active Air Force: 16
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Transport

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Source: usairforce / Flickr

14. EC-130H Compass Call
> Average age in 2022: 47.09 years
> Aircraft in service: 9
> Active Air Force: 9
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

13. E-4B NAOC
> Average age in 2022: 47.38 years
> Aircraft in service: 4
> Active Air Force: 4
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

12. UH-1N Iroquois
> Average age in 2022: 49.59 years
> Aircraft in service: 63
> Active Air Force: 63
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Helicopter

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11. RC-135U Combat Sent
> Average age in 2022: 56.65 years
> Aircraft in service: 2
> Active Air Force: 2
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

10. RC-135V Rivet Joint
> Average age in 2022: 56.94 years
> Aircraft in service: 8
> Active Air Force: 8
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

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9. RC-135W Rivet Joint
> Average age in 2022: 58.08 years
> Aircraft in service: 12
> Active Air Force: 12
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

8. WC-135R Replacement of WC-135C
> Average age in 2022: 58.55 years
> Aircraft in service: 2
> Active Air Force: 2
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. TC-135W (trainer)
> Average age in 2022: 59.30 years
> Aircraft in service: 3
> Active Air Force: 3
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

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6. WC-135W Constant Phoenix
> Average age in 2022: 59.40 years
> Aircraft in service: 1
> Active Air Force: 1
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

5. KC-135R Stratotanker
> Average age in 2022: 59.46 years
> Aircraft in service: 340
> Active Air Force: 138
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 202
> Type: Tanker

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Source: U.S. Air Force / Public Domain

4. RC-135S Cobra Ball
> Average age in 2022: 59.47 years
> Aircraft in service: 3
> Active Air Force: 3
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. NC-135W (test bed)
> Average age in 2022: 59.50 years
> Aircraft in service: 1
> Active Air Force: 1
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 0
> Type: Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications

Source: Endrudphotography / iStock via Getty Images

2. B-52H Stratofortress
> Average age in 2022: 59.80 years
> Aircraft in service: 76
> Active Air Force: 58
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 18
> Type: Bomber

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1. KC-135T Stratotanker
> Average age in 2022: 61.59 years
> Aircraft in service: 54
> Active Air Force: 30
> Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve: 24
> Type: Tanker

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