The signal intelligence capability of the United Kingdom got a boost on Tuesday 12 November 2013 with the arrival of the first of three Boeing RC-135V/W Rivet Joint aircraft.
The large, four engine replacement for the decommissioned Nimrod R1 landed at RAF Waddington (RAF Photo) and is officially part of the so-called project Airseeker to increase the UK’s intelligence, surveillance and analysis for its armed forces. It is not meant for the lately much discussed UK data and phone espionage of civilians worldwide.
The Rivet Joint flies with Royal Air Force’s 51 Squadron. UK crews have already been training in the US on the aircraft since 2011, alongside US Air Force personnel of the 55th Reconnaissance Wing who operate the aircraft for decades now. Although accumulating 32,000 flying hours and 1800 sorties already, the RAF will not put the aircraft immediately into action. That is planned for 2014.
British and US RC-135V/Ws will be different somehow in their mission systems, since the aircraft are being reconfigured a bit according to UK specifications. Flight trials are being made in Greenville, Texas. All three Rivet Joints should be operational by 2017.
Source: UK MoD with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger