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RC-135 Rivet Joint sigint aircraft selected to replace Nimrod R1


In February 2010, the UK confirmed that its ageing fleet of Nimrod R1 sigint aircraft would be replaced by Rivet Joint aircraft purchaed from the United States. However, while the last Nimrod R1 will retire in 2011, the replacement Rivet Joint aicraft will not be available until 2014. This has consequences for operations in Afghanistan where airborne sigint has been increasingly fused with intelligence from other sources and pushed forward rapidly to operational and tactical units with some success.

The intention is that three USAF KC-135R airframes (based on the Boeing 707 aicraft) will be converted over to the latest RC-135 signal intelligence (SIGINT) configuration by L-3 Communications. They will employ the same systems used by the Americans, ensuring cost-effective upgrades and inter-operability. The RAF boasts a growing range of ISTAR aircraft, including the Reaper UAV, the Raytheon Systems Sentinel R1 airborne ground surveillance aircraft, and the Beechcraft King Air 350ER Shadow R1.


'The new face of airborne SIGINT: global, civil and in real time', International Defence Review, 30 November 2010