Two British RC-135 ‘Rivet Joint’ electronic surveillance aircraft are in the air near to and above eastern Ukraine.
The deployment of this many RC-135 aircraft in the region at once is unprecedented for the UK.
Two British RC-135 'Rivet Joint' electronic surveillance aircraft were in the air above Poland and above western Ukraine. The deployment of this many RC-135 aircraft in the region at once (2 of the 3 operated by the UK) is unprecedented for the Royal Air Force. pic.twitter.com/vv3SwTwJkX
— UK Defence Journal (@UKDefJournal) February 18, 2022
British surveillance aircraft being over the area isn’t unusual but we are seeing a significant increase in the frequency of the flights over the last few weeks. American assets are also present.
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.