UK's first Airseeker on track for 2013 delivery, says MoD

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The Royal Air Force's first RC-135W Airseeker electronic intelligence aircraft is on track for delivery in December 2013, with conversion work running on schedule, says the UK's Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation.

Updating the status of a programme to convert three ex-US Air Force KC-135 tankers to the service's Rivet Joint surveillance configuration, the Ministry of Defence's procurement and support body says: "The glass cockpit that features in the RC-135 is well on its way to being embodied. The aircraft will be rolling out for painting next January in preparation for an extensive ground and flight-test acceptance programme."

Conversion activities on the first aircraft were launched in January 2011 in Greenville, Texas, with the work being led by prime contractor L-3 Communications and supported by the USAF's Big Safari programme office.

"A number of aircraft skins have been replaced to deal with corrosion and prepare the aircraft for its service life as an RC-135," DE&S says in its monthly publication Desider. Additional work has included removing the tanker's refuelling boom system, installing an air-to-air refuelling receiver system above the cockpit, and replacing every wire in the aircraft. Mission equipment racks have also been fitted in the rear cabin.

"Progress on the aircraft build is in on schedule, with delivery on track for December next year," DE&S says.

The RAF's future Airseeker fleet will assume the tasks previously conducted using its British Aerospace Nimrod R1s, the last of which was retired from duty with its 51 Sqn in 2011.