Touch of gray: The Air Force can’t retire the Boeing 707

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The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress may have a lock on the title for oldest active-duty US military aircraft. But it only has two years on the Air Force’s other senior citizen, an aircraft that will likely keep flying for as long as the B-52: the venerable Boeing 707.

While the Air Force is working on phasing out the KC-135 refueling plane (which was developed alongside the 707 by Boeing in 1956), the 707 lives on in many other guises. There’s the Air Force’s E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS command and control aircraft, as well as the US Navy’s E-6B Mercury strategic command and control aircraft (also known as the “doomsday plane”), all based on the 707 airframe. And as much as the Air Force might want to send its 707-based aircraft off to the boneyard—the majority of those aircraft were delivered before most active service members were even born—the US Congress recently made that goal more difficult to achieve.

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