The Royal Air Force's first of three Airseeker electronic intelligence aircraft will enter operational service in October 2014, following an on-time delivery in December 2013, one of the UK's defence ministers has confirmed.

Acquired for conversion from retired US Air Force Boeing KC-135 tankers by L-3 Communications in Greenville, Texas, the RAF's future Airseekers will be prepared and kept in a common configuration with the USAF's RC-135W Rivet Joint platforms.

RC-135W Rivet Joint

 Master Sgt Lance Cheung/USAF    

"The first of these aircraft will be delivered in December 2013, followed by further deliveries in 2015 and 2017," Mark Francois, minister of state for defence personnel, welfare and veterans, said on 5 February. "Airseeker is expected to enter service in October 2014."

According to the UK National Audit Office's recently published Major Projects Report 2012, the Airseeker acquisition is expected to total £634 million ($1 billion), with through-life support costs to add a further £637 million by 2025. The trio will replace the RAF's British Aerospace Nimrod R1s, the last of which was retired in 2012.

Source: Flight International