A Royal Air Force RC-135W intelligence gathering aircraft was again circling close to the headquarters of the Russian Northern Fleet.
The aircraft, tail number ‘ZZ666’ and flying under ‘RRR7223’ previously performed a similar sortie earlier in the week.
The aircraft was again refuelled over the North Sea by a U.S. Air Force KC-135 out of RAF Mildenhall before flying over Norway and then down to the Kola Peninsula, just off Murmansk.
That the Royal Air Force chose to make the aircraft visible on commercial tracking services like that shown above sends a very clear message.
Why are we reporting this? Well, aside from the above, it’s important for people to see theat aircraft like this are in near-constant use rather than gathering dust in a hangar.
It should be noted, by the way, that the aircraft is in international airspace. The West does this to Russia, Russia does this to the West.
What does the RC-135W do?
According to the Royal Air Force website, the RC-135W Rivet Joint is a dedicated ‘signals intelligence’ 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.