L3 has delivered the third and final RC-135V/W Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft to the Royal Air Force, a milestone marking the completion of the Airseeker programme.
The three aircraft form the backbone of the UK’s Airseeker capability, providing new and collaborative intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance resources in support of global security missions. Upon touchdown at Royal Air Force Waddington, the aircraft was formally transferred to the RAF, completing the hardware deliveries under the Foreign Military Sales contract valued at approximately $1 billion.
Taken together, the UK and USAF fleet form a combined fleet of 20 aircraft, and L3 say they will perform future baseline upgrades and periodic depot maintenance on the fleet. L3 has also delivered a station to support ground operations and training systems to train both operators and maintainers.
“This groundbreaking agreement gives the UK access to future innovative technology and presents a very high level of interoperability with major coalition partners,” said Christopher E. Kubasik, L3’s President and Chief Operating Officer. “This partnership has provided our U.K. allies with an intelligence-gathering platform that supports near-real-time on-scene collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities.”
“Analysts have hailed this U.K./U.S. program as the highest level of intelligence cooperation between the two countries since World War II,” said Mark Von Schwarz, L3’s Senior Vice President and President of its Aerospace Systems business segment. “The U.S. and the U.K. will be closely involved in future maturation of the Rivet Joint weapon system for at least the next 25 years.”
Under the agreement, the UK purchased three Rivet Joint aircraft for conversion by L3 from KC-135R tankers to the RC-135W configuration. The first two aircraft were delivered in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and upon gaining their airworthiness releases.
“The cooperation between L3, the USAF and the U.K. MOD throughout the Airseeker program has been the key to delivering aircraft early and fielding the capability ahead of the original schedule,” said Bill Chrispin, the Airseeker Delivery Manager.