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UK Rivet Joint fleet ups tempo for Black Sea ops

The UK's RC-135W Rivet Joint fleet has been operating at almost 200% of the normal tempo. (Crown Copyright)

UK Royal Air Force (RAF) RC-135W Rivet Joint signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft have been operating at nearly three times their normal operating tempo to support intelligence-gathering operations in the Black Sea theatre, according to the service's senior operations officer.

Delivering the annual Sir Sydney Camm Lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on 1 February, Air Marshal Harvey Smyth, deputy commander (operations), added that operations over the last year had put crews “well within harm's way”.

Operated by No 51 Squadron at RAF Waddington, the three Rivet Joint aircraft – ZZ664, ZZ665, and ZZ666 – form part of a wider enterprise between the RAF and the United States Air Force (USAF). As part of the RAF's Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Force, the RC-135W fleet is used to monitor, collect, and analyse communications and radar signals of interest.

“From a UK perspective, our ISTAR Force has been exceptionally busy throughout this last year, particularly our Rivet Joint capability, which has been operating at almost 200% from previous norms,” Air Mshl Smyth said. “Flying from the Barents, via the Baltics, Eastern Flank, into the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, our ability to collect intelligence data, and process it at pace has proved vital, and it's very important to highlight at this point that those doing the processing at 1 ISR Wing have been right at the very heart of intelligence provision for NATO.”

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