Commander-in-Chief visits new RAF intelligence aircraft training programme

The sec­ond-high­est-rank­ing Roy­al Air Force offi­cer has vis­it­ed British per­son­nel who are being trained in Amer­i­ca to use the Riv­et Joint air­craft — the RAF’s new air­borne sig­nals intel­li­gence air­craft.

The RC-135/Riv­et Joint recon­nais­sance air­craft (stock image) [Pic­ture: Mas­ter Sergeant Lance Che­ung USAF 2010]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Air Chief Mar­shal Sir Simon Bryant, Com­man­der-in-Chief of Air Com­mand, vis­it­ed Offutt Air Force Base in Nebras­ka to get a clos­er look at how the US Air Force’s 55th Wing is pro­vid­ing RC-135/Riv­et Joint ini­tial qual­i­fi­ca­tion train­ing to RAF personnel. 

Dur­ing his vis­it, Air Chief Mar­shal Bryant 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. 

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. 

Air Chief Mar­shal Bryant 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 in late 2013. 

Air Chief Mar­shal Bryant added: 

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

The 55th Wing start­ed train­ing the British RAF per­son­nel in Jan­u­ary, with more than 60 hav­ing com­plet­ed the pro­gramme so far. After grad­u­at­ing, the RAF per­son­nel are allowed to fly on US Riv­et Joint air­craft 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’. 

The 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 per­son­nel cur­rent­ly on the train­ing pro­gramme were pleased to meet their Com­man­der-in-Chief face-to-face and talk about Riv­et Joint’s capabilities. 

RAF Sergeant 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.” 

Air Chief Mar­shal Bryant is respon­si­ble for gen­er­at­ing all RAF air pow­er, for devel­op­ing capa­bil­i­ties, and for 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 US 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 have been won­der­ful hosts to us in the UK for decades and we at Offutt feel blessed to return some of that hos­pi­tal­i­ty back to our great friends.” 

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

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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