RAF Rivet Joints: Out of the Shadows

The RAF has been highly secretive over the years about the electronic intelligence role of 51 Sqn. With this in mind, Aviation News Editor Dino Carrara was intrigued to hear what would be revealed at a recent press event held at RAF Waddington.

1-WAD-Rivet Joint ZZ664 (002) cropped.jpg
This RC-135W, ZZ664, is the first Rivet Joint to receive a glass cockpit and the latest Baseline 12.2 rear-end system upgrade.
MOD Crown Copyright 2020/RAF

The first Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint to be upgraded to a new standard in terms of its cockpit and mission systems has been delivered to the RAF. Aircraft ZZ664 arrived back in the UK on November 18 last year after receiving the work in the US. Secrecy around the electronic intelligence gathering role of 51 Sqn has meant the RAF has provided little detail about the unit’s mission or aircraft. However, the service is now keen to highlight the importance of the Rivet Joints and the success of the close working relationship with the US on the programme. A press event was held recently at the unit’s home base of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire to announce the receipt of the first upgraded aircraft and the arrival of a new simulator, which was shown to the journalists present.

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