The first UK Royal Air Force personnel to transition from the British Aerospace Nimrod R1 onto the Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic intelligence aircraft will enter training in January 2011, before going on to support US Air Force operations with the type from later in the year.

To be conducted at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, the training will be delivered to "airborne mission crew and flight deck personnel, along with ground exploitation officers and support personnel," says the UK Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation's Desider publication. "Up to four RAF crews will be trained at Offutt, who will then deploy alongside their USAF colleagues on combined operations worldwide from next summer," it adds.

 RC-135 - US Air Force
© US Air Force

Three Rivet Joints will enter RAF service from 2014 under what the DE&S has described as "the most complex combined Foreign Military Sales case and cooperative support arrangement that the UK has undertaken with the USAF since World War Two." The acquisition, which survived the nation's recent Strategic Defence and Security Review process, will involve three stored KC-135 tankers being converted to the RC-135W standard by L-3 Communications.

The DE&S says the UK's new assets - which will be dubbed Air Seekers - "will be supported, maintained and upgraded as part of a larger UK/US fleet of 20 aircraft". The USAF currently operates 22 RC-135-series aircraft, as listed in Flightglobal's MiliCAS database.

"It is expected that the UK will take part in the programme until at least 2025, although there are options to extend this period," the DE&S says, while noting that System upgrades will be implemented every four years.

 Nimrod R1 - Crown Copyright
© Crown Copyright

The UK currently has two Nimrod R1s in use, with these assigned to its 51 Sqn at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. The type (above) is scheduled to leave service by 31 March 2011.

Source: Flight International