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.”

FILE PHOTO: RAF RC-135 touches down.

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.”

RC-135 taking off from RAF Waddington.

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.

4.7 3 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Captain P Wash

First in service 60 years ago, In dog years they be 420 !


Old but gold! lol

Order of the Ditch

Does anyone know why such an old airframe is being used?
WHy wasn’t a Boeing 737 airframe used, even it was one fo the more vintage models?


Cost. The U.S. already uses the 707 for this role so no development costs, years of development, ect. Putting the Rivet Joint kit on another airframe would be very expensive.

Daniele Mandelli

I think I’d read these were the youngest of the spare KC130 tankers the USAF had.


Always thought that the KC130 wasn’t based on the 707 airframe!


Err KC135……that is!


Or was that KC and the sunshine band?

John Clark

I think KC and Sunshine band used a 727 as a tour aircraft in the states once H, what’s the thread about again …. Has anyone mentioned the SNP yet?


Watching our Nichola give her evidence to the enquiry….she is a lot smarter than Boris’ mob. She’d destroy Hancock and Williamson, mind you……..

John Clark

I watched some serious, ‘it wasn’t me guv’, nothing to see here, move along now or the Tartan Army will move you, type of political droning on from our Nichola.

Oh dear, as many of us thought, the SNP have peaked too early, just starting to slide in the polls as the in fighting kicks in…..

It appears shouting ‘Scotland the Brave’ at the top of your voice, over and over again, isn’t a coherent political in depth strategy for running a country after all….


The reverse is the case actually, the 707 Airframe is a development of the KC-135. The Boeing Dash-80 that became the KC-135 had a 132″ fuselage to allow four abreast seating like the earlier Stratocruiser. Consultation with the Airlines showed they wanted a wider fuselage to allow five abreast seating, Boeing increased the fuselage diameter to 144″ to accommodate that whilst allowing them to use the tooling built for the KC-135. Douglas then launched the DC-8 with a 147″ fuselage allowing 6 abreast seating that the airlines REALLY liked so Boeing was forced to do another redesign expanding the fuselage… Read more »


Do these and sentinel have cross over capabilities?


Limited. River Joint focuses on ELINT (ELectronic INTelligence), acting passively as a ‘sponge’ to soak up any electromagnetic emissions from its target.

Sentinel is a battlefield surveillance radar platform, supposedly to track the movements of enemy armour on the ground.


Is this in anticipation some sort of a baltic crimea . it’s quite a specific exercise , I wonder if it’s in response to Russian moves , intelligence on planned moves , or purely scheduled training . Covid might make good cover for hybrid warfare !