RAF's first RC-135 has been delivered...

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I don't suppose its of much interest amongst the usual threads on 'What if..?', 'this vs that vs the other...' and the painfully monotonous squabbling over the F-35, however, the RAF's first RC-135 (ZZ664) was delivered this morning to RAF Waddington using the callsign 'VULCAN 51' -Dazza
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that's a lot of lolly for planes built in 1964! Honestly, couldn't they just fit all the equipment in a new built A330 or B777 for maybe a 10% price premium for system integration but having longevity and reliability?
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System integration is the expensive, slow & risky part.
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Plus the extent to which the aircraft are sharing systems with the already operational US variant is unclear but I believe significant. This is a system that nobody else other than the RAF and USAF will be operating so there is no value in starting afresh.... How else are they going to listen to all those world leaders eh?;)

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Is there an intention to name the type? Rivet Joint is awful. Regards
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Personally, I think that so long as the aircraft can be operated safely it's a good investment on the part of the RAF. Spares and support should no doubt be relatively easy to come by, the airframe is old, but proven, the performance and endurance for the role is certainly just fine. Why not use it? I see using a new-build aircraft, such as an A330 to be a wasted effort that will end up costing way more than any benefits coming from a newer airframe would offset. The familiarity that the USAF already has with the type will pay dividends as their experiences with it will be of a great boon to the RAF crews in getting up to speed. Good purchase in my opinion. Glad you shared! (For what it's worth I care about stuff like this precisely because it doesn't follow the same trend of most of the garbage discussions that take place on this forum...)
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Does this replace the Nimrods?
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It replaces the Nimrod R1.
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The electronics inside the RC-135 are rather hot, the gloss white upper helps maintain internal temperatures at a reasonable level. A different colour would involve certifying it and that costs money that could be better spent elsewhere. The Daily Fail tried to raise a stink over it but frankly it is a very good idea to stick to the US colours, they look very nice and similar to the old transport command colours. Also as pointed out the letter font is proper and not the PR type driven mess that the rest of the fleet has to suffer. Frankly ZZ664 looks really handsome in the grey white gloss IMHO.
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Thanks for that Fedaykin. I figured it was something specific to the systems on the aircraft rather than a lack of money or motivation. And yes, its a great Cold War look!
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Why did the RAF buy the 40-50 year old RC-135, instead of developing a Joint European ELINT/SIGNT aircraft based on an Airbus design?
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Why did the RAF buy the 40-50 year old RC-135, instead of developing a Joint European ELINT/SIGNT aircraft based on an Airbus design?
1) Because they can't afford it. 2) Maybe there wasn't any potential European partners that also wanted to share the cost.
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Why did the RAF buy the 40-50 year old RC-135, instead of developing a Joint European ELINT/SIGNT aircraft based on an Airbus design?
As per Kev 99's points but also: The USAF plans to keep the KC-135/RC-135 is service for another thirty maybe even forty years, they have a huge fleet and the maintenance to support it alongside the bone-yard AMARG. The KC-135 has an over engineered airframe and we have the last off the line, they are very well maintained as the Americans do a bare metal overhaul/rebuild every few years of all the airframes. In comparison to civil airline types they are low cycle and well understood in respect of fatigue. Our RC-135 will have far lower hours the the USAF examples, the US examples built up huge hours during the Vietnam war but the US has no need to replace for the long term. The RAF has full USAF spec RC-135 with a few unique UK only boxes and participation in the development of the type in general meaning we get the Americans to pay for costly development and integration stuff.
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1) Because they can't afford it. 2) Maybe there wasn't any potential European partners that also wanted to share the cost.
As per Kev 99's points but also: The USAF plans to keep the KC-135/RC-135 is service for another thirty maybe even forty years, they have a huge fleet and the maintenance to support it alongside the bone-yard AMARG. The KC-135 has an over engineered airframe and we have the last of the line, they are very well maintained as the Americans do a bare metal overhaul/rebuild every few years of all the airframes. In comparison to civil airline types they are low cycle and well understood in respect of fatigue. Our RC-135 will have far lower hours the the USAF examples, the US examples built up huge hours during the Vietnam war but the US has no need to replace for the long term. The RAF has full USAF spec RC-135 with a few unique UK only boxes and participation in the development of the type in general meaning we get the Americans to pay for costly development and integration stuff.
Thanks guy's. I did not even know that the US were planning to keep their KC-135s for 30 or 40 years, that means the KC-135 will be 80-90 years old when the US finally retires them.
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I have come across a few RAF cargo/refuelling types who are of the opinion that we should of adopted the KC-135 (RR Conway powered then re-engined to CFM56), it would of been very handy in a number of situations. For example Black Buck would of been far easier with the KC-135 vs the Victor. Imagine this picture with the tanker carrying RAF markings: http://www.aviationspectator.com/files/images/KC-135-Stratotanker-094.jpg The Americans have deep pocket, whilst it caused consternation when first announced I think this is a very happy solution that offers significant possibilities and cost savings. The Americans were apparently VERY interested in what project HELIX offered so now we are part of the Rivet Joint program there is a good chance those capabilities will find their way onto Rivet Joint/Airseeker.
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System integration is the expensive, slow & risky part.
True. Who only knows why, but it seems to be the case. Compared to 99% of the world, were aviation experts, but compared to aeronautical engineers, we don't know a lot (at least I'll admit it)...but what should be an easy job often takes unexpected (in cost and complexity) turns.

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Along with the F-35B - will the RC-135 be IFR equipped with a boom receptacle ?? If so, what will we use to refuel them ?? - is the boom on the Voyager working yet ??? Just curious.... Ken

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True. Who only knows why, but it seems to be the case.
As soon as you starting messing with electronics or avionics that affect flight safety, your Design Assurance Level shoots up. On the average engine; at DAL A, your gonna write the grand sum of about 10 lines of code a day. [the rest of your day will be spent checking that each line doesn't induce failure of some sort.] Increase the software to encompass more systems; and the slower you go. Hence why the JSF is a nightmare and why the Swedes have the right idea - completely separate flight software from mission software.
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Along with the F-35B - will the RC-135 be IFR equipped with a boom receptacle ?? If so, what will we use to refuel them ?? - is the boom on the Voyager working yet ??? Just curious.... Ken
UK F35B will have a probe not a receptacle for a boom. (The lift fan gets in the way anyway) UK RC-135 are not getting a probe, they will use a receptacle only. We have an agreement with the Americans to use their tankers for our RC-135 fleet. UK Voyager are not boom equipped, they are equipped with wing mounted pods and a centreline HDU (depending if it is a KC2 or KC3 variant)