02 Jun 2014

New MOD surveillance aircraft takes to the skies

Summary: A new MOD surveillance and intelligence aircraft has taken its first UK flight.

The UK Rivet Joint RC-135W aircraft is one of three that the MOD is buying from the US as part of the Airseeker programme at a cost of around £650m.

The aircraft gathers data and vital intelligence using advanced sensor technology and is able to carry out onboard analysis and distribute the information to be exploited by assets on the ground via its high-tech communications suite.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“These highly specialised aircraft and their supporting ground systems, bought off-the-shelf, provide Britain with a first-class intelligence-gathering capability that is value for money and another key part of our ability to interoperate with the US.”

The MOD’s Chief of Materiel (Air), Air Marshal Simon Bollom, who oversaw the procurement of the aircraft, said:

“The first flight of the UK’s Rivet Joint RC-135W aircraft, as part of the Airseeker programme with an RAF crew, is a proud moment for all in the Defence Equipment and Support team who have worked, and continue to work, so hard to deliver this outstanding capability to the front line.

“We have procured an aircraft with a proven track record which has been successfully operated by the United States Air Force, with RAF crews under co-manning arrangements, for a number of years.

“We have worked very closely with our colleagues in the US on this project and today’s first flight signifies the commencement of a new and potent airISTAR capability in the RAF inventory.”