RAF News

UK and US extend Rivet Joint support until 2035

Three Rivet Joint aircraft on the airfield.

The UK's three Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft will benefit from an extension to the support arrangement with the US Government until 2035 in a deal worth £970 million. 

The RC-135W Rivet Joint, also known as Airseeker, is a dedicated electronic surveillance aircraft that deploys in all theatres on strategic and tactical missions.  The agreement will continue to benefit from maintenance, spare parts, engineering support, technical data and access to capability updates.  

Rivet Joint aircraft comes into landing.

Support is provided by the unique venture between the United States Air Force and the UK Ministry of Defence – known as the Rivet Joint Cooperative Programme – which was due to expire in 2025 and will now continue until the UK out of service date in 2035. 

"The Rivet Joint Cooperative Programme is a fantastic example of the UK/US special relationship and the support for our Airseeker fleet has been extended for a further decade.  With a commitment to invest almost £1 billion, this agreement will ensure that we, and our allies, can benefit from the aircraft’s impressive surveillance capability for years to come."

Jeremy Quin
Defence Minister

Operationally proven across the world, including in counter-Daesh missions in the Middle East, the aircraft works by using its sensors to detect, identify and geolocate signals throughout the electromagnetic spectrum.  The mission crew can then forward gathered information in a variety of formats via an extensive communications suite.

Rivet Joint aircraft comes into land on airstrip.

To ensure the aircraft continue to receive support until 2035, the existing Memorandum of Understanding with the US was extended following negotiations between the US Department of Defence and the UK Ministry of Defence.  Under the new Memorandum of Understanding, the Ministry of Defence have committed to investing £970 million in the programme over the next 14 years.

"Extending Airseeker support reaffirms the continuing cooperation between the UK and US in this important Defence capability area.  I am delighted that Airseeker will continue to receive world-class sustainment and follow-on development support right up until the current UK out of service date in 2035."

Sir Simon Bollom
CEO of Defence Equipment & Support

Based at RAF Waddington by 51 Squadron, the Rivet Joint aircraft are part of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Force.

“This is an important step in reinforcing both nations’ commitment to exploit cutting-edge technologies on intelligence operations from both the UK and overseas out to 2035."

Air Commodore Hay
ISTAR Force Commander

By extending the support agreement until 2035, 25 jobs are secured.  Mainly based at RAF Waddington, the jobs provide technical and logistic support to the programme.

Rivet Joint aircraft guided at night by personnel.

Read more about Airseeker, the RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft here.