A British RC-135 ‘Rivet Joint’, an electronic surveillance aircraft, is once again patrolling over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in order to keep an eye on Russia.

On these flights, the aircraft often patrols near the Russian border with NATO members as well as around the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

This isn’t a new occurrence, in fact it is quite routine. The UK has long been gathering intelligence about Russian forces since long before the invasion of Ukraine and it should be noted that these flights are designed to be visible so that the public and Russia know they’re happening. If it was a secret, I would not know. Also, for those remarking ‘this isn’t new’, that’s right but people only know this happens often because it is reported often.

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 months for obvious reasons. 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.

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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Andy Catchpole
Andy Catchpole
3 days ago

Can anybody give a simple explanation of how this works for the uninitiated please.

Crabfat
Crabfat
3 days ago

This time/day last week I counted 1xRAF Rivet Joint, 1xUSN P-8 Posiedon, 1xNATO E-3A Sentry and 1x USAF RQ4B Global Hawk, all working in the area to the west and south of Ukraine/Crimea at the same time.
Whilst the Rivet, P-8 and Sentry were at around 32,000 – 35,000 ft the Global Hawk was up at 50,000 feet.
No doubt there was a tanker or two also but didn’t spot them.
An an excellent example of the joint effort by so many nations, in the support of Ukraine.

dan
dan
3 days ago
Reply to  Crabfat

Not to mention the aircraft that don’t appear on flight tracking web sites like the U-2s Dragon Lady and classified stuff.

Brooklyn
Brooklyn
3 days ago
Reply to  Crabfat

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Last edited 3 days ago by Brooklyn
Daniel
Daniel
3 days ago
Reply to  Brooklyn

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eclipse
3 days ago
Reply to  Daniel

Mate you’re not at 170000000 dollars per hour yet? You’re behind the curve.

Darren hall
Darren hall
3 days ago
Reply to  Brooklyn

I don’t experience freedom, my wife wont let me…:(

Rob
Rob
3 days ago

Seems a very sensible place to patrol. Related news today is that the UK MOD has bought 20 x 155mm howitzers from a Belgium company to send to Ukraine. Anyone know what type these guns were? I’m guessing maybe FH70.

Last edited 3 days ago by Rob
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  Rob

Interesting.

New or refurbs?

Presumably refurbs if available at short notice?

My only concern with this is that the Ukrainians end up with tiny numbers of very good things and the logistics turn into a nightmare for them.

Mind you, I don’t think it would take that much precision firepower to turn the tide. If it was done sector by sector. As the Ukranians say: blow the remaining g Russian armour and they can clear the Russian ground forces out double quick time.

Marked
Marked
3 days ago

It’s not the Russian armour that’s the problem, it’s the overwhelming artillery barrage they are capable of using to reduce defenses and defenders to rubble.

Knocking out the Russian artillery is the overwhelming priority. MLRS is what they need, counter battery fire being its forte. They need lots of it and need it now. Defending is easier than attacking and they need to hold ground now, taking it back without having numerical advantage will be close to impossible.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  Marked

Yup, but a lot of the Russian wheeled artillery is……a T62.

So taking those out solves a lot of the issue.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 days ago

According to the BBC the Ukrainian’s have already recieved 100 M777 from the US. This article gives a very good description of the NATO coordinating office in Germany. Lots going on that we don’t hear about me thinks.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-61816337

Cheers CR

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Oh, I suspect you are right.

And I suspect the Russians are wasting missiles on decoy warehouses.

The Ukrainians will keep this stuff in reserve until they have critical mass and then unleash it.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 days ago

You mean a bit like the huge number of expensive missiles NATO wasted blinking drain pipes, packing cases and lengths of 3×4 cunningly arranged in guns pits to look like towed guns…

Cheers CR

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Where?

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 days ago

Bosnia. Sorry a bit too cryptic. Plenty of news article around on the web these days. I have even seen photos of wooden Mig 29 decoys. They were full sized and detailed replicas with BBQ coals inside the fuselage to simulate hot engines.

As you point out decoys work – very very well. Just think D-Day and Patton’s ghost army in the southeast of England. That one changed the course of history.

Cheers CR

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

True

That is where the present generation of smart missiles won’t be fooled.

They would look for magnetic signature, radar properties as well as IR (heat) but in a spectrum manner so just having a hot source won’t mean it is a target.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
2 days ago

Yeh, multispectral seekers is where it is at, but that also pushes the cost up, doesn’t it always! It also depends on what is happening as well.If it is shooting at you it is porbably the real thing so it does not always need a really smart weapon to make a postive ID. Which is where NLAW comes in. As such there is still a place for simpler weapons as perhaps we’d accept a few of these less expensive weapons getting decoyed, especially if they give us weight of fire at the contact point. All of which I am sure… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Even NLAW does a basic check like that

andy a
andy a
3 days ago

ukraine has said they will push russia out but we need to supply
1000 x 155mm guns
300 x MRLS
500 x MBT
1000 x light armour

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  andy a

I can’t see them needing that much kit.

I suspect they are talking this up so that when they wallop the Russians with 1/4 of the kit the Russians are still waiting.

Rob
Rob
3 days ago
Reply to  Rob

Just learnt they are refurbed SP guns. Likely M109s?

Last edited 3 days ago by Rob
ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 days ago
Reply to  Rob

They should be good enough to match Russian artillery especially if they have had their targetting and comms kit updated during the reburb…

Cheers CR

Bob
Bob
3 days ago

I wonder how much targeting info Ukraine is receiving from the Redeye flights?

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago
Reply to  Bob

A lot

I’d be surprised if they were not told where everything was on their sovereign patch.

I suspect we are a little more careful about what we tell them is heading into theatre on Russian soil so they don’t get tempted.

Dern
Dern
3 days ago

Then again, the Ukranians seem to have crossed that particular red line a couple of times without any western help already.

… especially if you consider all those suspicious “accidents” that keep happening in Russia.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
3 days ago
Reply to  Dern

I think the accidents are most likely caused by moving so many munitions around. Who knows what they keep in them and how long it’s sat there and in what condition.
Estimates put Russia is firing 70,000 artillery shells a day!
How many millions of these shells do they have? Can they make replacements quickly? I suspect they probably can make them.

Dern
Dern
3 days ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

It’s not just the ammunition dumps that are catching fire though.
(Plus lets not forget that strike by Ukranian helicopters across the border)

Last edited 3 days ago by Dern
Tams
Tams
3 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Nah, that’s just Russian incompetence (and perhaps some domestic sabotage). They have a record of some very big explosions due to handling munitions that ahould have been destroyed decades ago.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  Tams

Yes, 1960/70’s munitions won’t be in a great state and certainly won’t be working consistently!

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago

Given how inept and untrained the Russians are they could well be accidents: there again…..

Farouk
Farouk
3 days ago

I see the well funded and fantasically funded British army have added an extra capability to the all singing and dancing Watchkeeper:
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