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An image leaked on the internet shows what appears to be the first RC-135 Rivet Joint destined for the U.K. Royal Air Force.
The RAF has three RC-135s on order, making the U.K. the first export customer for the RC-135V/W Sigint jets. The aircraft have been converted from a trio of 1964-vintage Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers which had been sitting in the boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB.
The three aircraft were ordered by the Ministry of Defence in March 2010 and the first aircraft is expected to roll out early next year. Once in service, the aircraft will be operated by No. 51 Sqn which famously operated the Nimrod R1, an aircraft which for many years the RAF refused to disclose as being in operation because of the type’s intelligence gathering capabilities. In preparation for the Rivet Joint’s arrival, 51 Sqn crews have been flying missions with the 55th Wing to gain experience on the type. It is understood that the aircraft will be christened Airseeker in RAF service.
Sharp-eyed readers of this blog will notice the aircraft distinctly lacks an air-to-air refuelling probe and given the RAF has not ordered a boom for its Voyager tankers, the new Airseekers will end up being dependent on USAF or tankers from other nations for refuelling.
IIRC the use of CFM-56 engines has significantly increased the fuel efficiency and so lessens the need for AAR. Also there is not too much space on board for extra crew to rotate for crew duty and also to fit a probe would require a complete redsign and cost £££££££s.
That said, NATO always have ANG KC-135s on standby for the AEW aircraft. There is usually a shortage of drogue AAR on Coalition ops, not boom.
So it is a desicion that probably wasn't taken lightly but was the best one to keep HELIX/AIRSEEKER alive. Furthermore, it cements the UK/USA 'special relationship', which should not be underestimated.
Loads of factual errors in ORAC's report, but good to see a contractor delivering on time, indeed months a head of schedule. Lets hope the other pieces required to ensure the UK has full military capability are deliverd by DES and the other stakeholders.
I wonder if the ac will look as shinny ofter a few months of UK ownership?
I'd be surprised if we didn't use the US colour scheme. The aircraft is stuffed with equipment that produces heat and a completely new paint scheme would change the thermal properties. Why pay more and introduce extra risk?
Location: Squirrel Heaven (or hell!), Shropshire UK
Thank you Finnpog
AAHHHH Changi and the 38Gp Pan- the last time I went through that gap they had to put the gates down as well (only we were doing about 250kts and ATC were a bit worried about a double decker bus coming along the road). The AOC wasn't very pleased either, but that's another story!