American, Australia and British crews have flown an RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft over the Pacific region “demonstrating our strong alliance and increasing our ability to maintain a Free and open Indo Pacific” say the U.S. Air Force.

AUKUS is a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced on the 15th of September 2021 for the Indo-Pacific region. One of the headline aims of the pact is for the US and the UK to help Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

The pact also includes cooperation on advanced cyber, artificial intelligence and autonomy, quantum technologies, undersea capabilities, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic, electronic warfare, innovation and information sharing.

The official Twitter account of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces tweeted:

What does the RC-135W do?

According to the Royal Air Force website, the RC-135W Rivet Joint is a dedicated electronic surveillance aircraft that can be employed in all theatres on strategic and tactical missions. Its sensors ‘soak up’ electronic emissions from communications, radar and other systems.

“RC-135W Rivet Joint employs multidiscipline Weapons System Officer (WSO) and Weapons System Operator (WSOp) specialists whose mission is to survey elements of the electromagnetic spectrum in order to derive intelligence for commanders.”

The Royal Air Force say that Rivet Joint has been deployed extensively for Operation Shader and on other operational taskings. It had been formally named Airseeker, but is almost universally known in service as the RC-135W Rivet Joint.

The UK operates three of these aircraft.

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Armchair Admiral
Armchair Admiral
4 days ago

A much underestimated asset.

I have a question though. Would they be of any/much/great use when the shooting starts? It seems to be a rather large vulnerable asset, or does the intelligence gathering still work at a distance, as it were??
AA

Jon
Jon
4 days ago

We know the UK planes fly over the Baltic, the Black Sea, Poland and Romania. I’m guessing they aren’t checking out the fish or the local beetroot harvest. If they can scan emissions from neighbouring countries, I’d think that would be at a useful enough distance.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
4 days ago

There are other collection methods.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
4 days ago

Oh yeh..! Morning Daniele,

You are now into the realms of multiple data sources and agencies…

Picture compilation a very complex and challenging thing to achieve and subject to inter-agency relationships. I’m not sure anyone really know how to it effectively yet, although there are those who claim they can.

Cheers CR

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
4 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Morning mate. We’ll that’s what UKUSA is for CR. Which we are in a privelieged position to be plugged into. Multiple data sources and agencies. GCHQ and NSA have a bilateral relationship, joined with the rest of 5 Eyes. Picture Compilation. Such as the Events Management Centre or SIGINT Operations Centre at OpsA at Cheltenham that reacts to world events live to catch every last electronic trace. The “Golden hour” as they call it. Other sources. Have you looked on the roof of any embassies lately? As for other collection methods, it’s well known Troodos has an ELINT collection mission… Read more »

Mark Franks
Mark Franks
4 days ago

UK EYES ALPHA, intelligence distributed to UK agencies only but often the 5 eyes are included on the circular. UK EYES BRAVO wider distribution to allies outside the 5 eyes agreement. Humit, Elint and Ilint, plus much more. I was attacted to the 55th wing at Offett AFB operating out of Kadena Okinawa many years ago. For weeks I was escorted around the CAOC a windowless structure even when I needed to take a leak. The amount of information that was hoovered up was incredible. Knowledge is power and if you know what others are doing or intend to do… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 days ago
Reply to  Mark Franks

Yes. I suspect many don’t realise just how powerful and capable UKUSA is. I like to use that old term for what expanded into 5 Eyes. Leaving the EU, the remoaner saying we’re being excluded from intelligence sharing? Go ahead, we’re a part of something much much bigger. Knock yourselves out. The intelligence side is as important to the defence of our great country as is the military. Our boys and girls are present at several locations like the CAOC you describe. Impressive, yes. I don’t find it worrying personally, that’s all too much Liberty and Guardian for my taste,… Read more »

Martin
Martin
3 days ago

I’m sure we could do with better intel on speed boat sales in northern France and it’s probably not a particular interest to five eyes.

James
James
3 days ago
Reply to  Martin

What would we do with that information, inform the French authorities so they can stock said boats in the required quantities!?

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
4 days ago

I was walking along the street the other day, mindful of course of who might be watching, checking shop windows as I was trained to do, looking for dodgy Citrons and so on. I spotted the drop point, took the message and put it in my left hand so I was nearer the slot. I got close, took one last look around and dropped it into the dead letter box. I did wonder how secret it could be. There it was, big and red with a crest on the front. Oh well, Have a good weekend my friend.😎🕵

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
4 days ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

I hope you deloused on route and double backed a few times!

Escalators are very good I believe….

Though if you saw the same person twice it’s not surveillance, they’re that good. 😆

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
4 days ago

gochelwch rhag troliau

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
4 days ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

😳😆

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
4 days ago

That is a very good question AA. The problem is that these assets are obviously very vulnerable to any kind of counter air. As your question alludes to. Their sensors can work at long ranges and if I understand correctly are limited to varrying degrees by the horizon. So my guess is that they could not operate in high threat environments, but could operate sufficiently close to such environments to provide ‘something’. Precisely what that something is, is obviously something we will never really know… My reading of the situation is that whilst they remain useful in a wide range… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
4 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Agreed. The agencies can only present what they can it’s up to idiots above in politics to dither and screw things up.

dan
dan
3 days ago

Just one of the many EM collection assets the US has. They also have highly capable elint sats that gather intel 24/7, ships, land based listening posts, ect.

John N
John N
4 days ago

Lots of activity going on here in the Pacific.

RIMPAC 2022 has just concluded, 26 nations, 40 ships, etc, etc.

We’ve got China acting like the bullies they are, surprise, not!

Here in Oz we have 4 (of 20) USAF B-2s based here for about 2 months.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/20-percent-of-the-usafs-b-2-force-is-deployed-down-under

Europe is not the only place where a lot crap is going down.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
4 days ago
Reply to  John N

Hi John, Hardly surprising given the meeting between Putin and Xi just before the Ukraine War kicked off. Pelosi handed Xi just the kind of excuse he wanted to escalate tensions in the Pacific Region and split America’s attentions. Best thing he could do to support Putin without openly supporting Putin..! The situation around Taiwan is rediculous to be honest. China pretends Taiwan is still part of China, which clearly it isn’t. America pretends that it doesn’t treat Taiwan as an independent state even as it sells advanced weapons to the government in Taipei! Then both America and China pretend… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
4 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Very clearly a very dangerous place! From a UK perspective, we need 3% GDP on defence without delay, scrap the now totally obsolete SDSR 2021 and launch a new review, again,without delay! I would like to see cross party consensus on a ring fenced 3% GDP on defence moving forward. Re Taiwan, I don’t think China has any intention of invading, an amphibious force would simply be cut to bits and their Airforce assets swept from the sky.. China still mainly uses typical Soviet doctrine, with a thin layer of modern equipment spread on top. They aren’t up to a… Read more »

John N
John N
4 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Hi Mate, Actually I’m glad Pelosi visited Taiwan, and yes China’s response was very predictable and expected too. What it does do is to send a signal to China that while the US has a focus on what is happening in Europe, it also has a clear focus on the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions too. I think China’s behaviour also puts a bit of a spotlight on some of the nations in the region that have been ‘fence sitting’. The more China acts the bully, the more it pushes other nations together in the Asia-Pacific region. Anyway, interesting times in… Read more »

Tams
Tams
3 days ago
Reply to  John N

This.

China have been getting bolder anyway, and Russia’s invasion, while having given them some pause, seems to have emboldened them further (falsely, but still dangerously).

Pelosi’s visit reassures Taiwan when they really need it, will help bolster support for more military investment there (they need it), has pushed Japan further towards giving up the silly pretence they don’t have a very capable armed forces and to arm more, and pushed other allies in the Pacific to consider defence more seriously and urgently.

Better now than later.

Frank62
Frank62
3 days ago
Reply to  Tams

To be fair most nations in the far east have been very concious of the rising Chinese threat & building their forces up markedly the last decade at least. It’s certainly not a case of Putins invasion prompting them. The big problem has been most of NATO(including the UK) reducing conventional forces below anything that makes us look serious. For all China’s growing military hardware, the neighbouring nations combined with US commitments in the region at least match Chinese capablitiies.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
3 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Hmmm…does anyone else sense a reprise of the 1930s w/ some different cast members and countries? Oh wait, ,Russia is featured in a similar role, w/ a modern tinpot dictator aspiring to play Stalin, and a swapout of the PRC for the Japanese Empire in the role of successor to the Southeast Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. In addition, the villains come equipped w/ nukes…🤔😳☹️

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

The aspiring Tin Pot Dictator also has wonder weapons that no-one else has?

Where have I heard that before?

Martin
Martin
3 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

It’s more like WW2 without Nazi Germany. Italy and Japan solo would have been easy just for the Brit’s and French alone. Just the USA would take Russia and China apart today much less the broder NATO and allied forces. The big question is with the increasingly irrational US political system will the USA be there to under pin the system?

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
3 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Actually, my comparison was to the 1930s, prewar. Agreed, Russia has exactly one trump card, its’ nukes. More concerned w/ ChiComs, and the rate of acceleration in their armament program. US currently has preponderance of power. Ten to fifteen yrs. from now, given current trendline? Without significant US investment, a much more problematic peoposition, apart from possible political instability. Equally concerning, British and French governments currently exhibit relatively little progress in rearming. Really would be useful to have someone w/ gravitas of W.S. Churchill become next PM. The frontline states (e g. Poles, Baltic states, Finns, Swedes, etc.) are alarmed… Read more »

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
3 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

… proposition…🙄

Martin
Martin
3 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

I don’t disagree with your analysis. The problem on rearmament for the likes of the UK and France is the vast size of US forces. Britain could double its defence budget and it would still have exactly the same political weight with Washington as it does now. The UK faces little in the way of a direct threat and it’s difficult to tell people to pay more tax to deal with a belligerent China given how far away it is. It’s worth noting that no one in the Indo pacific was massively keen on helping Europe against the soviets in… Read more »

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
3 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Sorry, don’t understand the term “sheik” in the last sentence of your response. Please explain.

My contention is that in 10-15 yrs., given the command nature of its’ society and economy, and a robust armaments program, the ChiComs may be able to decisively and comprehensively defeat a combination of USN, RN, RAN, Japanese and S. Korean fleets, in addition to any other fleet capable of assembly, and the collective expeditionary air forces of the allies. The sole response would then be unrestricted nuclear warfare, a distinctly unpleasant prospect.

Martin
Martin
3 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

Sorry sheik is a typo should say while. China can have all the fleet it wants but basing is the issue . Chinas geography is terrible for projecting naval power. If it can’t hold the Indian Ocean and the straits of malacca at present then it can’t import oil and it will loose in the same way that The axis did in ww2 I.e. lack of oil. In addition the only platform likely to matter in a shooting war are SSN’s. China has shown its SSN’s are still a generation or two behind the US and UK’s. In 15 years… Read more »

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
3 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Martin,

Thanks for your prompt response and explanation. I certainly hope your forecast of the next 15 yrs..is more accurate than mine. Two additional questions arise 🤔: 1.). How does the West constrain future PLAN basing, leveraged by ChiCom financial investment in worldwide port infrastructure? and, 2.). How does West prevent wholesale theft of the designs of next generation SSNs by ChiCom foreign intelligence service? ChiCom activity is reminiscent of cancer metastasis.

Martin
Martin
3 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

Basing is hard to prevent with our current weak policy. One only has to look at what’s happening in the Solomon Islands. It’s hard when you go out of your way to not have an empires to prevent others from building empires as local elites tend to favour empires as they benefit. Harsh sanctions might work as a deterrent for island nations like the Solomon’s. Fortunately the Himalayas make Pakistan basing largely irrelevant in the Indian Ocean however Myanmar is a bigger concern. Hard to stop it though as they have a boarder with China and are completely economically dominated… Read more »

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
3 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Psst…will let all of you in on a state secret…when the chips are down, the US will only count on unalloyed support from a handful of states (and those of Anglo-Saxons descent comprise the vast majority). Therefore, each aircraft carrier, submarine, destroyer, frigate, fighter sqdrn, armor or artillery formation deployed in harm’s way would be gratefully accepted by those who count. Please do not repeat this; reasonably certain this info is not PC orthodoxy. 😎

Martin
Martin
3 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

For sure, my only concern is that the US figures out that the pacific is crazy wide and the US is nowhere near China and packs up and goes home. Too many countries free load on the security provided by USA and US voters are increasingly isolationist. The last 3 presidents in America have had no foreign policy at the start of their administration beyond pulling out troops and strategic retreat.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

Yes, definately. I nearly likened them to a new axis alliance… and I have suggested previously that we are in another 1937 – 38 type scenario. So yeh, I definately agree with your observation. The thing is, if they are a new axis alliance, then war is going to be very difficult to avoid and I’m not entirely certain our leaders are capable of avoiding such a clamity, if for no other reason than they spend quite a bit of time worrying about their job security… Of course, if the dictators are determined to have a war then there is… Read more »

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
3 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

There is a Latin motto which is relatively popular w/in rhe US military, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” roughly translated into English as “If you want/wish for peace, prepare for war.” (Sorry, I was never more than an indifferent student of Latin,). Believe motto also known to UK military. A personal favorite is the Theodore Roosevelt quote re foreign policy, “Speak softly, carry a big stick.” Homespun words of wisdom, undimmed by the passage of six score years. If potential opponents know they will be annihilated, most sane parties will seek a reasonable accommodation.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
3 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Another discomforting thought to stoke your nightmares: what transpires after Mad Vlad and his slobbering Orc horde detonate a tac nuke in Ukraine, if they are repulsed in future battles (an option per Russian doctrine)? 🤔 Personally believe Russian response would begin w/ rest of CBRN panoply of options, but have been mistaken on numerous occasions. 😳 Would the West give the Ukrainians a corresponding weapon to retaliate with? Presume we are collectively in a whole new ballgame at that point. Arrgh,,,,

Martin
Martin
2 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

Tactical nukes are not really that effective unless you have a specific target like and airbase. Also the Ukrainians have the ability already to deploy a dirty nuke on Russian territory that’s likely far more devastating than a tactical nuke.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
2 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Very interesting, didn’t realize the Ukrainians had that capability. Surplus from Chernobyl?

Martin
Martin
2 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

Surplus from Chernobyl and all the other nuclear reactors across the country. They currently have 15 providing half their electricity. They have had fake deals with he Russians up until this year however there will be plenty in storage across the country for a dirty bomb and there was speculation they might have such a device just after the war started. Delivery platforms may be an issue however they have significant stocks of ballistic missiles that could be retro fitted or they can use an aircraft or helicopter with a barrel bomb at a push. They don’t even have to… Read more »

David Flandry
David Flandry
2 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

I sense it all too much. China may end up losing, but so did Hitler, while costing us all.

Martin
Martin
2 days ago
Reply to  David Flandry

The Nazis and to a certain extent the Japanese high command believed they were racially superior and this racial superiority would some how over come their clear economic short comings. I don’t think the Chinese have the same belief.

David Flandry
David Flandry
1 day ago
Reply to  Martin

Belief in racial superiority is not the only false belief. Belief in a false philosophy invented by an unemployed German philosopher is as destructive.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

But isn’t it interesting that various Russian hypersonic development bods have been arrested for passing state secrets to China? That isn’t exactly the sweet parallel of AUKUS is it? The closest of relationships are not that close if things like this are not being shared. I have said a few times that I believe that Russian theoretical science was pretty good in the Cold War and so the theoretical and fundamentals of a lot of programs will be sat in dusty filing cabinets. Essentially this is all the Russians have as they don’t have the money or the people to… Read more »

Martin
Martin
3 days ago

It’s more like the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 than an genuine alliance. Russians hate the Chinese with a passion and Russia is sitting on all the parts of Siberia that China needs to fuel its economy. Despite all Putins statements the majority of the russian army remains on the eastern boarders and we have not yet seen so much as a truck from China show up in Ukraine much less any serious weapons. Russia is the only thing worth invading for China and probably the only thing they could invade without the west cutting their global oil supply. My guess… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Could well be.

Ultimately the gas pipeline will go to China who will own the pipeline – the Russians could never build it in time.

The Russians will sell the Chinese gas at whatever price the Chinese dictate. Which won’t be much. There are two lessons China has learned from Germany: cheap energy, cheap credit for investment in building plant and machinery.

Martin
Martin
2 days ago

There are big questions of the Russians can build a pipeline with out western technology.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  Martin

The Russians can’t without the Ukrainians for sure. They cannot make the compressors themselves.

The Chinese will have a go at stealing the designs for the West and building one that never quite performs to advertised standards.

David Flandry
David Flandry
1 day ago
Reply to  Martin

Yes. They value the Northern Resource Area.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 days ago

Hi SB, The German, Italian and Japanese Axis of the 30’s and 40’s was not really an alliance at all. In fact, none of the member states trusted any of the others and they more often than not acted against each others interests… Which is very much what you and Martin describe about the Russia / China relationship. However, the comparison still stands when considering the threat. The original axis did a huge amount of damage globally even when stabbing each other in the back and did so without nukes… The problem is democracies are slow to anger… as we… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Taiwan is so different, to Ukraine, in that it has relatively well trained armed forces with some decent weapons that would make Nad Vlad’s eyes smart.

Essentially the shoulder launched kit needs to flooded in as does shore based AShM (Harpoon is there in quantity) and something like Ceptor to augment Patriot.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
2 days ago
Reply to  John N

One US news report stated 66 PLA? aircraft and 14 PLAN vessels breached Taiwan’s territorial boundary on Sunday. ChiComs are truly pushing the envelope.

Jim
Jim
3 days ago

Does anyone know if the aircraft carries any weapons? I ask as it seems they have wso’s but is there any armaments or are we talking electronic weapons here?

Frank62
Frank62
3 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Purely EW as far as I understand, as with most ELINT/EW aircraft. Warplanes cover it if needed.

David A
David A
2 days ago

Slightly off topic, though relevant: Did anyone see the surveillance video of the Russians at the nuclear power station hiding arms and equipment? Did anyone else notice that the video appeared to be taken from some distance away from a high end surveillance system? Do the Ukrainians have such systems or did we do this for them?