The Defence Secretary has confirmed that the second RC-135 Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft will be delivered to the UK seven months early.
The UK’s first RC-135 is currently on operations in the fight against ISIL in the skies over Iraq and Syria.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
“We’re the only coalition nation conducting manned ISR over Syria. And Today I can announce that our latest Airseeker plane will be delivered next month, seven months ahead of schedule and will be operational shortly after that in the skies above Iraq and Syria – providing essential intelligence in the fight against ISIL. No one, except the US, matches our efforts.”
The United Kingdom had purchased three RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft from the United States in a deal worth around £630 million. The aircraft join 51 Squadron at RAF Waddington along with the RAF’s other ISTAR assets, like the Sentry and Sentinel.
The RC-135W signals intelligence aircraft is fitted with an on-board sensor suite that allows the aircraft to detect, identify and geolocate signals throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. The information can then be distributed in a variety of formats to a wide range of platforms through Rivet Joint’s extensive communications suite.
British crews had already achieved more than 32,000 flying hours and 1,800 sorties as part of the USAF’s 55th Reconnaissance Wing, in preparation for the RAF operating the type.
A programme of continual upgrades has kept the American RC-135 fleet modern and three British aircraft will continue to benefit from the upgrade programme. British Rivet Joints will operate as part of a joint pool with the USAF and as a result, will be upgraded and maintained to the same standard as the American aircraft.