British RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft, designed to soak up electronic signals, have been deployed near Crimea twice in the last seven days.

A flight left the UK yesterday morning for the Black Sea before returning to RAF Waddington in the afternoon.

Five days before, on the 23rd of December, another RC-135 ‘Rivet Joint’ intelligence-gathering aircraft was deployed to monitor Russian forces around Crimea.

British surveillance aircraft monitoring Russian forces near Crimea

The flights are a regular occurrence, we believe it should be reported as and when it happens to ensure people don’t see this as anything unusual. It should also be noted that these flights are designed to be visible so that the public and Russia know they’re happening.

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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Kevvo
Kevvo
21 days ago

Well, if you got it, you may as well use it.
Let’s be honest. We’re not going to engage in a fighting war, but it’s fun to get the toys out the box and play with them.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
21 days ago
Reply to  Kevvo

That is one of the things that sets our military apart from many others. We do get our toys out, and know how to play with them on ops against potential or actual enemies, as opposed to sitting at base in their box/hanger looking shiny and un used.

These aircraft input directly into the widest intelligence web the world has ever seen.

Also worth remembering these sort of flights have been going on throughout the Cold War, by both sides, and continue to this day. If Ukraine was not kicking off the Rivets would be in use elsewhere.

Mark B
Mark B
21 days ago
Reply to  Kevvo

Probably best not to make assumptions. Gather the facts then informed decisions can be made.

James Fennell
James Fennell
21 days ago
Reply to  Kevvo

Diddie little Russian economy getting wet pants methinks. We always engage in a fighting war when required – you can check the record.

David Barry
David Barry
20 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Honestly? You think the UK would engage in a fighting war with Russia?

I can imagine and would support giving military aid to the Ukraine but nothing more.

Should we become directly involved in fighting Russia, this would see a world war.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
20 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

At last! Someone else who sees some sense.

Stay the hell out of it, save giving assistance, be that aid, money, intel, or supplies.

Ukraine is not even in NATO. And no way should be.

Andrew
Andrew
20 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

If you feel that strongly about fighting Russia, you should jump on a plane to Kiev, volunteer into the Ukrainian Military/militia, and let us know how it goes…

dave12
dave12
20 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

The fact is we do not need to fight Russia if they invade the Ukraine just arm the Ukraine’s and watch it play out ,it would be Putins biggest mistake .

David Steeper
David Steeper
20 days ago
Reply to  dave12

See how popular he is when the bodybags start arriving back in Russia.

JohninMK
JohninMK
20 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Nothing little about the Russian economy apart from the inadequate methods of measurement. Looked at in terms of a real economy, with proper not financial engineering it is massive. Twice as much steel made as Germany, very large aluminium production, more power of all types (not solar/wind) produced and used than Germany, major ship, armaments and aircraft builder, one of only 4 countries capable of making advanced aircraft engines. Largest exporter of non GM wheat, second largest supplier of oil products to the US along with RD-180 rocket engines and large numbers of titanium casting for Boeing. I could go… Read more »

Sean
Sean
20 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

And yet a GDP smaller than financial fruitcake Italy.

dave12
dave12
19 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

Dont kid yourself Ivan lol Russia is the 11th richest nation on earth hence why the yanks dont really take Russia seriously.

Airborne
Airborne
20 days ago
Reply to  Kevvo

These “toys” are always out of the box and being used! Your comment is a little I’ll thought out.

Kevvo
Kevvo
21 days ago

And we have three?? We used to have squadrons of 16-20 aircraft. Days long gone.

eclipse
eclipse
21 days ago
Reply to  Kevvo

Well even the USAF has only 17 of these; let’s not get ahead of ourselves 😅

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
21 days ago
Reply to  Kevvo

We had 3 Nimrod R1’s ( Same role as RC135 ) with 51 Sqn at a time when the RAF numbered 30 plus fast jet squadrons.

The comparison is false.

Tim
Tim
21 days ago
Reply to  Kevvo

It’s not just that we only have three. We operate them from the UK so they only “soak up intelligence” for about 4 hours a week. We could rotate them in Cyprus for a week each at a time, and have one on station for 6 hours every day.

The US may only have 17, but they also have GlobalHawk. With a 30 hour mission time they could be on station 24/7 with just 3 drones operating from Turkey or Cyprus.

JohninMK
JohninMK
21 days ago
Reply to  Tim

The USAF operate theirs mainly out of Mildenhall but sometimes out of Souda Bay on Crete and Sigonella on Sicily so a fair bit closer. Also regular P-8A and Global Hawk flights from the later two NAS.

James Fennell
James Fennell
21 days ago
Reply to  Kevvo

We have always had three ELINT aircraft, 3 Comets in the 1950s-60s, 3 Nimrod in the ’70s-00s and now 3 RC-135s – don’t listen to this troll. The Russians like making paper aeroplanes and pasting them on Twitter, very few of them are ever made. 3 is the chosen number as it means one is available 24/7 to conduct intelligence gathering missions. They can hoover up half of Russia’s phonecalls in one pass.

Last edited 21 days ago by James Fennell
AV
AV
20 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

👍spot on, good post.

Sean
Sean
20 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Excellent factual comment 👍🏻

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
21 days ago

US has this week cancelled leave for their ships in the Med.

Kevin Banks
Kevin Banks
21 days ago

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that squadrons, fleets and battalions are not what they used to be.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
21 days ago

Hopefully the rivetjoint can give the Ukranian military some advance warning of any hostile action so they can at least get prepared to meet any attack.

David Steeper
David Steeper
21 days ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

👍

JohninMK
JohninMK
20 days ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

It needs to be there to do that and their operating time over Ukraine is very low. Even the Global Hawks are not there that long, certainly nowhere near continuous surveillance.

David Steeper
David Steeper
21 days ago

Way over my head what kind of intel they’re hoovering up but the Russians are probably in the same boat and a hell of a lot more spooked. Whatever they plan in regards to Ukraine if they suspect they won’t have surprise on their side it could only help to deter them from trying.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
21 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

I believe primarily ELINT – electronic intelligence. At least, that was what the R1 was valued for that preceded them.

It then gets passed to Digby and Waddington ( JSSU / JESC / JEWOSC / EROS and then disseminated onwards.

David Steeper
David Steeper
21 days ago

It’d be interesting to know what countermeasures the Russians are taking. Switching off radars, comms and guidance systems etc. Freaking out your opponent doesn’t appear in many military manuals but it can certainly be important.

Paul T
Paul T
20 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Indeed, I would have thought the Russians are pretty well read up on Operation Fortitude.

James Fennell
James Fennell
20 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

ELINT is also mobile phones, internet via Microwave, radio nets etc. A lot can be learned by using AI to analyse traffic.

Last edited 20 days ago by James Fennell
JohninMK
JohninMK
21 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Whereas we and the Americans have spent most of our military budget over the past 30 years on offensive strategies and equipment targeting non peer adversaries the Russians have spend their money, other than strategic nuke gear, on primarily peer related defensive systems. This means that they are almost certainly more relaxed about what is happening around Ukraine than we might be.   As a consequence it is unlikely that they care what is being hoovered up as they have control of what it is and can mould it as required. They also know that these flights are just peacetime… Read more »

Jon
Jon
21 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

Russia won’t strike first into Ukraine. They promise. They won’t poison the leader, won’t arm insurgents in Donbass, won’t take over the Crimea, won’t destablise the economy, won’t fire on and sieze Ukrainian shipping, won’t mass 100,000 troops on the border.

Oh, you mean they won’t do it again.

Last edited 21 days ago by Jon
JohninMK
JohninMK
21 days ago
Reply to  Jon

You are aware of the overriding strategic importance of the meetings in early January?

Ulya
Ulya
20 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

JohninMK, nothing useful will come from these talks, regardless of what Biden says or agree to domestic US politics will block everything. The best we can hope for US encouraging Kiev to talk to both republics as it is the only viable answer but they are not ready for that yet. This game will go on for some time

JohninMK
JohninMK
20 days ago
Reply to  Ulya

You may well be right but the point I was trying to make was that the Russians, having put a huge diplomatic effort into them, are not going to do anything themselves, like a first strike in Ukraine, to cut them off at the knees. It is now over 5 years that Kiev have been ignoring their agreement to talk to the republics and whilst the US keeps up its support sadly there is little chance of that changing. The actions of the US/NATO, as opposed to their PR words, are going to show us just how strong the Russian/Chinese… Read more »

Ulya
Ulya
20 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

Sorry I’m tired so I hope I understand you correctly, I agree there is not going to be a first strike by Russia, army will only go in if Kiev gets too silly with republics. I think Russia has a strong hand to play atm, more sanctions against us will make no difference, military threat is pointless, blocking us from swift and US dollar can be managed and would put more pressure on European/US relations as Europe will have to accommodate us if they want gas. Personally I think Russia is too much west focus and needs to limit itself,… Read more »

Meirion x
Meirion x
19 days ago
Reply to  Ulya

OK then, vacate West of the Urals!
West of the Urals is Europe really.

Last edited 19 days ago by Meirion x
Ulya
Ulya
19 days ago
Reply to  Meirion x

Thank you for the suggestion Meirion but I think we will stay, my people have been here since time of the great Khan and like it here. Of course none of that has to do with Europe being the old and Asia and the ME being our future

dave12
dave12
19 days ago
Reply to  Ulya

Going by how much the US is shipping gas to the EU now I think that card is not on the table , the only hand Putin has got is to invade the Ukraine which is a lose from start to finish , and you over state Russias importance to the US they really are more concerned with China .

Ulya
Ulya
19 days ago
Reply to  dave12

You cannot sleep either Dave? Why do you consider JohninMK a troll/Ivan but not me? There are 10 ships on the way from America from memory? If Europe wants to pay more for Ami gas and they can supply enough then very good, I think you are being hopeful, but at current prices a drop in volume really makes little difference to profits, it will be interesting to see how European economy manages it, new contracts with China and India really make Europe a secondary market. This idea of Russia invading all Ukraine is silly, there is no value to… Read more »

dave12
dave12
19 days ago
Reply to  Ulya

Yes a Late night Ulya . Good question well I may disagree with you most of the time but at least you do not hide your Identity but I’ve been wrong before. I agree it would be a really silly move to invade the Ukraine I just don’t see happening unless Putin wants to secure water supply to Crimea , as for western media that’s a bit rich considering Russian media is not even trying to hide its bias towards the kremlin hence the only Russia journalist to speak out against Putin gets a nobel peace prize.

petebland
petebland
18 days ago
Reply to  Ulya

Ulya, interesting last paragraph about “reading US/UK media”. We live in a very dangerous world where media articles are judged by their authors/management on their ability to create engagement (debate / anger) and therefore have deliberately inflammatory headlines (not UKDJ I must speedily assert!).

People like me (marketing people) get rewarded for engagement like this. Not for facts, or depth of analysis.

So please recognise that Ulya as you read US/UK media… I suspect you know this already….

dave12
dave12
19 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

The US see China as the main threat , Russia is not important enough its not been a so called super power for over 30 years and a economy the size of a small EU nation, Ivan you post in vain lol

dave12
dave12
19 days ago
Reply to  Ulya

I think to be honest Ulya Biden or the west dont really care Putin painted himself in a corner he cant back out and now he has to invade a nation and hold ground with a large population determined to defend itself either way Putin loses , we will just watch on.

Last edited 19 days ago by dave12
David Steeper
David Steeper
20 days ago
Reply to  Jon

He’s funny. Always makes me laugh.

Frank62
Frank62
20 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Quite right Jon. Chamberlin was duped by the bit of paper in his hand Hilter passed him off with. Putin & Xi work the same way. Stalin was duped by the treaty he made with Hitler which allowed him to invade & occupy the Baltics & Eastern Poland in 1939 before Hitler invaded the Soviet uniin in 1941. Just as we created a fake army in Kent giving all the signals of a Calais area invasion in June 1944, I’m sure Russia & China will be doing the same creating all the fake ELINT to the contrary. I wonder how… Read more »

Last edited 20 days ago by Frank62
JohninMK
JohninMK
20 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

We in the west are past masters at duping too and very proud of much of it as well. But some is more embarrassing. How about all the promises and statements made to the Soviets/Russians about no move of NATO east that were denied for years but are now coming out as true as files become declassified?

Frank62
Frank62
20 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

You’ve got to ask why ex WarPac nations are so fearful of Russia that they need NATO protection. Russia has to take most of the blame there, not NATO. Russia has to play the “protecting Russian citizens” card to justify agression as most nations have been so traumatised by Soviet/Russian control they don’t want to be under Russian control any more. I just hope NATO stands firm & is led with integity rather than letting small states get over run. We’ll see. I think the theats are too great to stand idly by & allow Putin & the PRC turn… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
20 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Don’t forget about shooting down Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777’s ….

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
20 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

“blinding that Intel system just when it is needed most.”

I know what you’re saying re the RC135s vulnerability. But the intelligence system does have many other nodes so would not be blinded just by the Rivet Joints withdrawal. Airborne collection is but one source of many.

Also, being ELINT aircraft, they have already recorded the signals of the Russian radar, communications, missile sites, and so on, many times over. So NATO knows them when they are turned on and can take countermeasures to defeat them.

JohninMK
JohninMK
20 days ago

I’m just trying to say that for the entire career of most in the loop they have had unfettered access to the stream of very valuable data that will stop. Yes there may be access to other sources but it will be a huge loss and force a huge operational change which they have no doubt trained for. Both sides play a cat and mouse game on positions and emissions so countermeasures would be battling each other.

James Fennell
James Fennell
20 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

Given that the Russian air defences in Eastern Ukraine don’t have the capability to shoot down a Turkish drone, I’d revise that opinion. All of those ISTAR and support systems you list fly high and outside the A2AD bubble, protected by air defence fighters. It will be F-35, F-22 and B-2, Tomahawk, Storm Shadow and JASSM – followed by Typhoon, Rafael, F-15, F-16 and F-18 that Vlad will have to deal with.

Last edited 20 days ago by James Fennell
JohninMK
JohninMK
20 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

I’m not sure where you have got that view on Russian operated AD as opposed to some others using Russian equipment. Drones like the TB-2 are only viable in a low stress environment and a ‘hot’ eastern Ukraine would certainly not be one. We agree that the assets I mention will indeed have to be high and outside any AD bubble, we disagree on how far that bubble will stretch, my view being that the Mig-31 and S-400 will raise the risk levels far enough to render those assets mute, its just too many valuable eggs in one flying basket… Read more »

James Fennell
James Fennell
19 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

The thing about drones is they fly high. Pantsir missiles operated in Eastern Ukraine don’t have the altitude to hit TB-2. If Mig-31 or S-400 missiles are sent into NATO airpsace there will be a war with NATO.

James Fennell
James Fennell
19 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Given that NATO has 25x the economy of Russia there will be only one winner of that spat.

Meirion x
Meirion x
20 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

The Ukrainians look like needing help to build a robust A2AD system that can repel anything the Russians throw at it. Much easier to defend airspace and territory than have to retake it, e.g. Kuwait 1991 an enormous effort required to retake territory and substantial airpower applied in preparation of the ground attack.
At least the Ukrainians have got substantial ground forces compared to what Kuwait had in 1990. But have lessons been learned since that time?

Last edited 20 days ago by Meirion x
Ron
Ron
20 days ago

Seems that some countries are taken the potential threat seriously. Whilst th RAF are flying River Joint near the Crimea, the US are flying E-8Cs over the Ukraine. Between the two NATO should be getting some good intel. Just hope we have a quite 2022.

James Fennell
James Fennell
20 days ago
Reply to  Ron

And NATO Global Hawks over Ukraine today too. Looks like a high alert.

JohninMK
JohninMK
20 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

The Global Hawks with various operators are regulars up and down the demarcation line, usually at least once a week. As the military have said, no particular importance should be placed on the air activities over Ukraine and the Black Sea at the moment.

chris
chris
20 days ago
Reply to  Ron

It would be nice if other NATO members had E-8 capabilities. The USAF and RAF have to cover all the long range ELINT missions.

Ron Stateside
Ron Stateside
20 days ago

Putin is like a wallflower begging to be danced with.

wayne gage
wayne gage
17 days ago

These aircraft have no defense against aggression. They gather intelligence