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The RAF's ears in the sky

A Royal Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint has been refuelled by a United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker on recent operations.

The Rivet Joint is a dedicated electronic surveillance aircraft that is widely employed on military operations to monitor, collect, and analyse selected communications and radar signals.

Image shows RAF aviator looking out of the window inside aircraft.

They are flown by 51 Squadron who are based at RAF Waddington and are part of the RAF's Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Force.

Image shows RAF River Joint in flight.

The aircraft have also recently been refueled by a French Air Force C-135FR Stratotanker, demonstrating the ongoing interoperability of NATO aircraft on operations. Integration with the French Air Force shows support to the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, which is an Anglo-French military force.

The 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. 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 has been right at the very heart of intelligence provision for NATO.

Air Marshal Harvey Smyth
Deputy Commander (Operations)

Like the United States Air Force’s KC-135, the RAF’s Voyager aircraft regularly delivers fuel to partner nation forces to extend the duration and range of the flights.

Read more about the RAF Rivet Joint