An RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft from 51 Squadron took part in a major US-led demonstration exercise in Europe with other European NATO Allies.
The Rivet Joint aircraft joined other aircraft from the US Air Force, US Navy, and The Royal Netherlands Air Force to conduct two exercise scenarios.
According to the Royal Air Force in a news release:
“An RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft from 51 Squadron, which is part of the RAF’s Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Force (ISTAR Force), took part in the exercise. The Rivet Joint aircraft joined other aircraft from the US Air Force, US Navy, and The Royal Netherlands Air Force to conduct two exercise scenarios.
The US-led exercise is designed to test and demonstrate the ability of the US forces and their NATO allies, including the UK, to integrate the command and control procedures needed to work together. The US have designated this exercise as a ‘Joint All-Domain Command and Control Demonstration’ activity, meaning that the activities are aimed at showing that US and NATO Allies are able to integrate Air, Maritime, Land, Cyber and Space activities into a coordinated exercise to rehearse possible future operations.”
The Royal Air Force explained that the exercise is a part of the US National Defence Strategy and demonstrated the ability to bring military assets together from NATO allies into the Baltic Sea to generate firepower inside an area that an adversary believes to be protected through anti-access, area denial technology. A second element of the exercise demonstrated the ability to defend infrastructure to allow this force projection.
Group Captain Jim Beldon MBE, Deputy Commander RAF ISTAR Force, was quoted as saying:
“It is very important to be able to integrate an RAF RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft into this exercise, which is aimed at testing and developing the Advanced Battle Management System. This System will merge information from a variety of sources, which enables commanders to react rapidly and decisively in dynamic operational situations. The RAF’s participation reaffirms the UK’s relationships with the United States Air Force and our NATO Allies.”
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.