A Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft is preparing to resume operations again following a major upgrade including a new state-of-the-art ‘glass’ flight deck, delivering a significant improvement in the aircraft’s capability for UK forces and its allies. Complete with its newly acquired world-leading technologies, Rivet Joint aircraft ZZ664 has undertaken the first of a series of flight deck training sorties from Royal Air Force (RAF) Waddington with the aim of shortly resuming exercises and operations covering a wide range of areas of interest for the UK. Defence Equipment and Support, the MOD’s procurement arm, managed the programme of modifications and secured UK certification of the new flight deck.
Since being upgraded in the United States, the RC-135W Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft boasts a modernised flight deck, making flying operations easier and safer for pilots. It has improved situational awareness enables crews to concentrate more on their mission. The new glass cockpit features digital flight instrument displays and large LCD screens, rather than traditional dials and gauges. Rivet Joint is a unique UK/US cooperative programme. Both nations collaborate on training, maintenance, and test and evaluation, as well as the exchanging of intelligence, expertise and best practice. The RAF’s other two Rivet Joint jets will undergo the same programme of upgrades in due course.
Air Cdre Nick Hay, Air ISTAR Force Commander, said: “This pioneering cockpit and major systems upgrade is a huge leap forward for the RAF’s Rivet Joint capability. Integrating these enhancements onto a legacy jet was a technically ambitious achievement, which underpins Rivet Joint’s ability to deploy anywhere in the world. Our global ISTAR fleet has never been so potent, thanks to the innovation and teamwork of this remarkable United States Air Force and RAF enterprise.”
Air Cdre Mark Hunt, DE&S Air ISTAR Team Leader, said: “RJ-18’s (ZZ664) clearance for operations marks a huge milestone for the Delivery Team. As a culmination of four years’ work, the certification of this first-of-type flight deck is a brilliant achievement for a pivotal UK/US collaborative programme.”
The Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint is a family of large reconnaissance aircraft built by Boeing and modified by a number of companies, including General Dynamics, Lockheed, LTV, E-Systems, and L3 Technologies, and used by the United States Air Force and Royal Air Force to support theater and national level intelligence consumers with near real-time on-scene collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities. ZZ664 is the first aircraft from the combined UK/US fleet to undergo these major enhancements. UK Rivet Joint crews were the first to receive a bespoke training package, including a new state-of-the-art simulator at RAF Waddington. This is currently the only Rivet Joint simulator modified to the new glass cockpit.