82nd Reconnaissance Squadron maintainers prepare a RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft for flight. The 82d Reconnaissance Squadron is part of the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. It is geographically separated from the 55th, operating out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. The squadron operates Boeing RC-135 aircraft flying reconnaissance missions.
The RC-135V/W is the USAF’s standard airborne SIGINT platform. Missions flown by the RC-135s are designated either Burning Wind or Misty Wind. Its sensor suite allows the mission crew to detect, identify and geolocate signals throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. The mission crew can then forward gathered information in a variety of formats to a wide range of consumers via Rivet Joint’s extensive communications suite. The crew consists of the cockpit crew, electronic warfare officers, intelligence operators, and airborne systems maintenance personnel. All Rivet Joint airframe and mission systems modifications are performed by L-3 Communications in Greenville, Texas, under the oversight of the Air Force Materiel Command.
All RC-135s are assigned to Air Combat Command. The RC-135 is permanently based at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and operated by the 55th Wing, using various forward deployment locations worldwide.
Under the “BIG SAFARI” program name, RC-135Vs were upgraded from the RC-135C “Big Team” configuration. RC-135Ws were originally delivered as C-135B transports, and most were modified from RC-135Ms. This is the only difference between the V and W variants; both carry the same mission equipment. For many years, the RC-135V/W could be identified by the four large disc-capped MUCELS antennas forward, four somewhat smaller blade antennae aft and myriad of smaller underside antennas. Baseline 8 Rivet Joints (in the 2000s) introduced the first major change to the external RC-135V/W configuration replacing the MUCELS antennas with plain blade antennas. The configuration of smaller underside antennas was also changed significantly.
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