A British RC-135 ‘Rivet Joint’ intelligence-gathering aircraft has once again been monitoring Russian forces near the border with Ukraine.
It should also be noted that these flights are designed to be visible so that the public and Russia know they’re happening.
Earlier, we reported that there has been an increase in the frequency of British RC-135 aircraft being deployed to the Black Sea region near Ukraine’s border with Russia. The frequency in recent weeks has become almost daily, up from weekly last year.
🚨 NEWS | A British RC-135 'Rivet Joint', a dedicated electronic surveillance aircraft, is once again off the coast of Crimea near the Russian border. The UK has been increasing the frequency of such flights in order to gather intelligence about the build-up of Russian forces. pic.twitter.com/zlpUruMR8H
— George Allison (@geoallison) January 18, 2022
British surveillance aircraft being over the Black Sea near Crimea isn’t unusual but as above, we are seeing a significant increase in the frequency of the flights over the last few weeks. American assets are also present.
Other British aircraft in the region
British C-17 transport aircraft are currently moving light anti-armour weapons into Ukraine in light of “increasingly threatening behaviour from Russia”.
According to a statement given by the Defence Secretary in the House of Commons today, the 17th of January 2022.
“As of today, tens of thousands of Russian troops are positioned close to the Ukrainian border. Their deployment is not routine, and they are equipped with tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, rocket artillery, and short-range ballistic missiles. I can today confirm to the House that, in light of the increasingly threatening behaviour from Russia, and in addition to our current support, the UK is providing a new security assistance package to increase Ukraine’s defensive capabilities. We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light, anti-armour, defensive weapon systems. A small number of UK personnel will also provide early-stage training for a short period of time, within the framework of Operation ORBITAL, before then returning to the United Kingdom.
This security assistance package complements the training and capabilities that Ukraine already has, and those that are also being provided by the UK and other Allies in Europe and the United States. Ukraine has every right to defend its borders, and this new package of aid further enhances its ability to do so. Let me be clear: this support is for short-range, and clearly defensive weapons capabilities; they are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia. They are to use in self-defence and the UK personnel providing the early-stage training will return to the United Kingdom after completing it.”
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.