An RC-135 Rivet Joint ‘signals intelligence’ surveillance aircraft has been patrolling close to the Russian border near Kaliningrad.
These flights are routine and a normal part of intelligence gathering and picture building activities. Russia does it too.
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.
RC-135 Rivet Joint
Now recovered at RAF Waddington, UK after Baltic mission
— BlueSky (@AirSpecInt) October 15, 2021
This comes not long after previous British RC-135 missions operating over Black Sea and Baltic Sea, this heavy usage demonstrates the apparent utility these aircraft have to the Ministry of Defence.
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.