Personnel from the Royal Air Force's 51 Sqn have completed their first week of instruction on the US Air Force's RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic intelligence aircraft, the UK service has announced.
Achieved just two months before its last two British Aerospace Nimrod R1 ELINT-gathering aircraft are to leave service, the development is the first step towards the RAF starting combined operations in mid-2011 using assets from the USAF's 343rd Reconnaissance Squadron.
The RAF says that up to four UK crews will be deployed later this year, with training to be provided to "pilots, navigators, electronic warfare officers, intelligence operators and airborne maintenance technicians". The work is being performed at the USAF's Offutt AFB in Nebraska, and the RAF says "training will take between three and five months depending on specific crew positions".
© Master Sgt Michael Cheung/US Air Force
"The first group of 51 Sqn personnel are the pioneers and face a demanding period of training on Rivet Joint," says Wg Cdr Garry Crosby, designated officer commanding for the post-Nimrod unit. "We are looking forward to our first training missions."
The UK will field three of its own Rivet Joints from 2014, with these being converted by L-3 Communications. The type will be named the "Air Seeker" in UK service.