A Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft is preparing to resume operations again following a major upgrade including a new state-of-the-art 'glass' flight deck, delivering a significant improvement in the aircraft’s capability for UK forces and its allies.
Defence Equipment and Support, the MOD's procurement arm, managed the programme of modifications and secured UK certification of the new flight deck.
Complete with its newly acquired world-leading technologies, Rivet Joint aircraft ZZ664 has undertaken the first of a series of flight deck training sorties from RAF Waddington with the aim of shortly resuming exercises and operations covering a wide range of areas of interest for the UK.
Since being upgraded in the United States, the aircraft boasts a modernised flight deck, making flying operations easier and safer for pilots. It has improved situational awareness enables crews to concentrate more on their mission. The new glass cockpit features digital flight instrument displays and large LCD screens, rather than traditional dials and gauges.
Rivet Joint is a unique UK/US cooperative programme. Both nations collaborate on training, maintenance, and test and evaluation, as well as the exchanging of intelligence, expertise and best practice.
Air Cdre Nick Hay, Air ISTAR Force Commander, said:
“This pioneering cockpit and major systems upgrade is a huge leap forward for the RAF’s Rivet Joint capability. Integrating these enhancements onto a legacy jet was a technically ambitious achievement, which underpins Rivet Joint's ability to deploy anywhere in the world.
“Our global ISTAR fleet has never been so potent, thanks to the innovation and teamwork of this remarkable United States Air Force and RAF enterprise.”
The Rivet Joint global fleet includes 20 aircraft, three of which belong to the Royal Air Force. ZZ664 is the first aircraft from the combined UK/US fleet to undergo these major enhancements.
Air Cdre Mark Hunt, DE&S Air ISTAR Team Leader, said:
“RJ-18’s (ZZ664) clearance for operations marks a huge milestone for the Delivery Team. As a culmination of four years' work, the certification of this first-of-type flight deck is a brilliant achievement for a pivotal UK/US collaborative programme."
UK Rivet Joint crews were the first to receive a bespoke training package, including a new state-of-the-art simulator at RAF Waddington. This is currently the only Rivet Joint simulator modified to the new glass cockpit.
The RAF's other two Rivet Joint jets will undergo the same programme of upgrades in due course.