RC135 pictured in UK markings with its reflection showing the same aircraft in US Air Force markings

Top RAF officer visits Anglo-American Airseeker programme

Royal Air Force personnel being put through their paces at an American air base as they prepare for the introduction of the RAF’s new airborne signals intelligence aircraft have been visited by their Commander-in-Chief,

The second-highest ranking Royal Air Force officer has visited an American air base where British personnel are being put through their paces on a new airborne signals intelligence capability.

During his visit, Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant, Commander-in-Chief of Air Command, received an in-depth aircraft tour, met more than 25 RAF personnel and saw first-hand how they are being trained on the Rivet Joint aircraft.

RAF Airmen currently on the training program

RAF Air Command Commander-in-Chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant met with more than 25 RAF personnel, received an in-depth aircraft tour and saw first-hand how they are being trained on the Rivet Joint aircraft during his visit.

On 19 March 2010, the MOD signed a bilateral agreement with the US Government to procure three Rivet Joint aircraft and associated training and ground systems, known collectively within the UK as Airseeker, to replace the Nimrod R1 aircraft.

Airseeker is scheduled to enter service in 2014 but before then the UK’s airborne signals intelligence capability is being sustained by a co-manning agreement under which UK personnel commenced deployed operations with US Air Force (USAF) colleagues on Rivet Joint aircraft in June 2011.

Sir Simon was at Offutt Air Base in Nebraska to get a closer look at how the USAF 55th Wing is providing RC-135W / Rivet Joint initial qualification training to his fellow Airmen.

He said: “I had a fantastic visit. We really do feel part of the team.”

The RAF expects to buy three Rivet Joint aircraft over the next seven years with delivery of the first due n late 2013.

Sir Simon said: “Seeing the training first-hand leaves me very, very excited and I can’t wait for 2013.”

The 55th Wing started training the British in January, with more than 60 having completed the programme so far. After graduating, RAF personnel are allowed to fly on US Rivet Joints until the UK’s RC-135 fleet reaches full operational capability. So far, more than 20 aircrew have flown missions alongside members of the ‘Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth’.

USAF 55th Wing commander Brigadier General Donald Bacon said: “It’s great to have this RC-135 partnership with our best allies, We’ve learned a lot working with them and so it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.”

RAF Airmen currently in the training program were pleased to meet their CINC face-to-face and to talk about the Rivet Joint’s capabilities.

RAF Sgt Mark Rushforth, who is going through RC-135 maintenance training with the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said: “It was a great morale boost. It was also a good opportunity to voice any concerns we had in regards to our training or welfare and also to tell him how accommodating everyone has been here.”


Sir Simon is responsible for generating all RAF air power, for developing capabilities and achieving precise campaign effects across the spectrum of operations, whenever and wherever they are required by the UK.

He said throughout his career he’s enjoyed his time working with the U.S. and this joint venture is very exciting for everyone involved.

He added: “The US military has always been the most fantastic and generous of professional teammates, but it’s been even more evident over the past 20 years or so since we’ve been conducting operations together in various locations around the world.”

Brigadier General Bacon said: “The RAF has been wonderful hosts to us in the U.K. for decades and we at Offutt feel blessed to return some of that hospitality back to our great friends.”

The 55th WG expects to continue training RAF personnel through 2013.

See also:

51 Squadron Completes first 1000 Hours in Rivet Joint


RC135 pictured in UK markings with its reflection showing the same aircraft in US Air Force markings.

RAF Airmen currently on the training program with Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant .

Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant presents a RAF Nimrod R1 model aircraft to Brig. Gen. Donald Bacon, 55th Wing commander, inside the Patriot Club at Offutt Air Force Base.

Photography: RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2011.

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