British and American RC-135 Rivet Joint signals intelligence surveillance aircraft have been circling the Russian enclave of 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 were operating over Black Sea, this heavy usage of the type demonstrates the apparent utility these aircraft have to the Ministry of Defence.
— BDS 0,8 (@BDataS_08) September 29, 2021
What is Kaliningrad?
The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is on the Baltic Sea and is sandwiched between Poland to the south and Lithuania to the north and east. The territory was annexed from Germany in 1945.
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.