A British RC-135 ‘Rivet Joint’, an electronic surveillance aircraft, has patrolled Poland, the Baltic states and Finland.

On these flights, the aircraft often patrols near the Russian border with NATO members and 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 while for obvious reasons. American assets are also present.

Image Steve Lynes, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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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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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1 month ago

Indeed… The Americans have been flying many aircraft over the area for two years now… Jake17 is currently up, above Poland and another unidentified aircraft is further south over the Romanian Black Sea coast… might be a Global Hawk as they are often there.

1 month ago

At this present time NATO is about to conduct the largest exercise since the Cold war so eyes and ears are necessary and as now Finland have joined over flights can be conducted with ease just don’t tell Greta