UK to take early delivery of its second Airseeker aircraft


Dec 5, 2014
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UK to take early delivery of its second Airseeker aircraft
Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
21 July 2015

The first of three Airseeker aircraft for the RAF seen being refuelled by a US Air Force tanker over the United Kingdom. All three aircraft will be with the RAF by the end of 2017. Source: US Air Force

The United Kingdom is to receive the second of its three Boeing RC-135W Airseeker intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft seven months ahead of time, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) disclosed on 21 July.

With one aircraft already having been delivered to 51 Squadron at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, in November 2013, the second is now scheduled to arrive in September (although it will temporarily be located at RAF Coningsby while the runway at its homebase undergoes refurbishment work). The third and final aircraft should be with the Royal Air Force (RAF) by the end of 2017.

According to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, the second Airseeker will join the first in conducting ISR missions over Iraq and Syria shortly after being handed over. His comments about the early arrival of the aircraft came the week after Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement that the United Kingdom is to spend more on "spy planes, drones, and special forces" to help counter the Islamic State and Islamist extremism.

The United Kingdom's Airseeker programme (until recently, the aircraft was known in the country by its original Rivet Joint moniker, but will now be referred to by its UK-programme name) dates back to 2010 when the Boeing platform was selected to replace the Nimrod R. Mk 1 electronic intelligence gathering platform at a cost of about USD700 million.

Although sovereign UK aircraft, the Airseekers are managed in service by a joint US/UK team based at L-3 Communications' Greenville site. As such, the United Kingdom is part of a continuous 'Rivet Joint' capability improvement programme running to at least 2025, although there are options to extend this period.
UK to take early delivery of its second Airseeker aircraft - IHS Jane's 360