The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has received into service the third and final L3 Technologies RC-135V/W Airseeker (Rivet Joint) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, the company announced on 28 September.
The aircraft (ZZ666) is understood to have arrived at its homebase of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire some months before the announcement, concluding the USD1 billion hardware procurement portion of the UK’s Airseeker programme.
Under the Airseeker agreement that the UK signed in 2010, the UK purchased three Rivet Joint aircraft for conversion by L3 from KC-135R tankers to the RC-135W configuration. The three British aircraft were selected because they had relatively low flying hours and were from the same production batch. The first two aircraft were delivered in 2013 (ZZ664) and 2015 (ZZ665), replacing the RAF’s already retired BAE Systems Nimrod R1 electronic intelligence-gathering platform.
Although sovereign UK aircraft, the Airseekers are managed in service by a joint US/UK team based at L3 Technologies’ Greenville site in Texas. Taken together, the UK and US Air Force (USAF) aircraft form a combined fleet of 20 aircraft.
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