A Royal Air Force RC-135 surveillance aircraft was deployed to monitor Russian forces in occupied Ukraine.

The RC-135W Rivet Joint and its sensors are designed to undertake ‘signals intelligence’ missions. In other words, they ‘soak up’ electronic emissions from communications, radars and other systems.

This isn’t new

This isn’t a new occurrence—in fact, it is quite routine. The UK has been gathering intelligence about Russian forces since long before the invasion of Ukraine. It should be noted that these flights are designed to be visible so that the public and Russia know they’re happening. If it were a secret, I would not know.

Also, for those remarking, ‘this isn’t new’, that’s right, but people only know this often happens because it is reported often.

What does the RC-135W do?

An RC-135. Image Airwolfhound, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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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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. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Steve (@guest_822942)
1 month ago

Interesting that these are back. It was almost daily at the start of the war. Wonder what they are interested in or if just a useful training exercise.