A British RC-135 is once again operating over the Black Sea near Crimea, the third deployment of a British surveillance aircraft to the region in the last seven days.
Before this deployment, the most recent was a flight that left the UK on the morning of the 29th to 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.
A British RC-135 is once again operating over the Black Sea near Crimea again today, making this the third deployment in seven days (British RC-135 aircraft were monitoring Russian forces in the region on the 29th and 23rd of this month). pic.twitter.com/sJZIFbfq1N
— George Allison (@geoallison) December 30, 2021
British surveillance aircraft being in the region isn’t unusual but we’re seeing a significant increase in the frequency of missions to the coast of Crimea. American assets are also present.
🇺🇸 US Air Force
Battlefield Management and Command and Control over Eastern Ukraine pic.twitter.com/KeZGj6rJ1x
— Zaes (@ZaesADSB) December 30, 2021
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.