The Royal Air Force has declared a final operational capability (FOC) has been achieved for its three RC-135W Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
Dubbed ‘Airseeker’ in RAF service, the RC-135Ws were acquired from surplus USAF KC-135 stocks and modified to their RC-135W standard by L3 in Texas. The first Airseeker entered service in 2014 to replace the Nimrod R.1, and all three aircraft have flown operational missions over Iraq and Syria.
“The Royal Air Force’s Airseeker/Rivet Joint system has achieved full operational capability,” RAF Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier announced. “A vital part of our ISTAR Force, it provides critical information and understanding to decision-makers in an increasingly complex, congested and contested battlespace. It offers essential support not only to air power operations but also to every aspect of joint capability across Defence, and in concert with our allies.”
The RAF’s ISTAR Force Commander, Air Commodore Dean Andrew, added, “Airseeker complements the wide-range of Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) assets under my command at RAF Waddington, and I am pleased to welcome this world-leading capability to the ISTAR Fleet. I continue to be impressed by what Airseeker and the personnel who operate and support is provided to Defence, and I look forward to it contributing on an increasingly enduring scale in the future.”
Compared to the donor KC-135 airframe, the RC-135W has extensive modifications including F108 (CFM56) engines, advanced electronic sensors in an extended nosecone and large ‘cheek’ fairings, and a plethora on antennae all over the fuselage.