New Rivet Joint intelligence aircraft lands at RAF Waddington

RAF Waddington will have a team of new aircraft living at the base, with the first one being delivered this week.

The first of three Rivet Joint (RJ) signals intelligence aircraft is at RAF Waddington and will take part in squadron work-up activity before entering service in late 2014.

The three planes will replace the Nimrod fleet, which was retired in 2011 after one crashed in Afghanistan, killing all 14 servicemen on board.

Known as Project Airseeker, the procurement of the Boeing RC-135V/W RJ system will give the UK world class airborne Signals Intelligence capability.

The first three Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft has been delivered to the UK ahead of its entry into service with the RAF next year. Photo: SAC Blake Carruthers

The first three Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft has been delivered to the UK ahead of its entry into service with the RAF next year. Photo: SAC Blake Carruthers

The RJ system provides real time on-scene intelligence, collection, surveillance and analysis to coalition forces in the air and on the ground.

Once in service, RAF Waddington based 51 Squadron will operate the aircraft after intense training, as well as operating alongside their United States Air Force colleagues in a co-manning arrangement.

The aircraft will form part of project Airseeker, which will provide the UK with a world class capability able to provide real time on scene intelligence, surveillance and analysis to forces in the air and on the ground. Photo: SAC Blake Carruthers

The aircraft will form part of project Airseeker, which will provide the UK with a world class capability able to provide real time on scene intelligence, surveillance and analysis to forces in the air and on the ground. Photo: SAC Blake Carruthers

Officer Commanding 51 Squadron, Wing Commander Tom Talbot said: “Following three years of training and preparation with our USAF brethren the Rivet Joint brings with it a step change in airborne Signals Intelligence capability for the UK.

“This is a fantastic day for 51 Squadron and marks the start of a new era in our long and illustrious history.”

A US Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft moves into position behind a KC-135T/R Stratotanker for an aerial refueling at a speed greater than 250 knots over Southwest Asia. Photo: US Department of Defense

A US Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft moves into position behind a KC-135T/R Stratotanker for an aerial refueling at a speed greater than 250 knots over Southwest Asia. Photo: US Department of Defense

Air Vice-Marshal Peter Ewen, Director Air Support at Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), responsible for the procurement of the RJ, added: “I am delighted that the first RJ aircraft has been delivered to the UK, an important milestone in the procurement pathway for the future Airseeker signals intelligence capability for UK Defence.

“A testament to the ongoing and highly effective UK/US co-operation in the procurement programme, support and RAF aircrew training, this first of 3 aircraft, will form a vital component of the Nation’s future ISTAR capabilities.

“By working with our US allies and buying a military capability from off the shelf, the UK taxpayer has saved significant research and development costs.”