An RC-135 Rivet Joint signals intelligence surveillance aircraft has been patrolling close to the Russian border near Kaliningrad.

The RC-135W Rivet Joint and its sensors are designed to ‘soak up’ electronic emissions from communications, radar and other systems.

This comes not long after British RC-135 and Sentinel surveillance aircraft were operating over Black Sea, this heavy usage demonstrates the apparent utility these aircraft have to the Ministry of Defence.

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.

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Captain P Wash

32 built since 1961, some very odd model names like Rivet Dandy, Cobra Eye, Big team and Office boy !!! 6 have either crashed or been damaged. Just read up about them.

Supportive Bloke

That is a lot of flying hours since 1961.

Most of the accidents and incidents seem to be more related to landing and take off issues, possibly one overweight and maintenance failure…

Series of odd code names: hard to infer purpose?

At £650M for three this seems something of a bargain TBH.

Daniele Mandelli

Morning Captain.

I believe ours were sourced from USAF AAR reserve stocks and are the youngest of the fleet.

As for USAF Rivets, I’ve always been fascinated in their operations sniffing around Russia. One was in the air in 83 when Korean flight 007 was shot down over Sakhalin. Some suggest at one point the PVO thought the airliner was the Rivet joint.

Captain P Wash

Afternoon, The US sure does like to make the most out of their aircraft, we spend 4 billion on planes and then Smash them all up with a JCB !

Daniele Mandelli

I know, tragic. And criminal.

Benjamin Rule

The diagram shows the plane passed into Russian territory briefly. That’s going to make Vladimir unhappy.