LONDON — Britain is set to take delivery of its second Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft from US contractor L-3 Communications in the next few weeks according to sources familiar with the program.
The new aircraft will join the first RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft delivered to the Royal Air Force in late 2013 to replace BAE Nimrod R1 spy planes.
This is one of those programs that doesn’t receive a lot of attention. One of the key aspects of airpower is that it requires fast, accurate intelligence to generate targets, otherwise it’s simply a means of disposing of jet fuel. And the Rivet Joint is very useful for generating that intelligence.
It’s also a rather stupendously expensive aircraft. And given the crippling austerity the RAF is working under, that tells you just how important signals intelligence is to the RAF and, in a more general sense, airpower itself.