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RC-135V/W RIVET JOINT

FILE PHOTO -- The hog-nosed RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, with its extensive antennae array, provides vital real-time battle management information to mission planners, commanders and warfighters. The aircraft is a high-altitude version of the C-135, which is a militarized version of the Boeing 707. The Rivet Joint aircraft, owned and operated by the 55th Wing, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., provides direct, near real-time reconnaissance information and electronic warfare support to theater commanders and combat forces. The Rivet Joint crew consists of members of several 55th Wing squadrons. (U.S. Air Force photo)

FILE PHOTO -- The hog-nosed RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, with its extensive antennae array, provides vital real-time battle management information to mission planners, commanders and warfighters. The aircraft is a high-altitude version of the C-135, which is a militarized version of the Boeing 707. The Rivet Joint aircraft, owned and operated by the 55th Wing, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., provides direct, near real-time reconnaissance information and electronic warfare support to theater commanders and combat forces. The Rivet Joint crew consists of members of several 55th Wing squadrons. (U.S. Air Force photo)

FILE PHOTO -- The basic airframe of the RC-135 resembles that of a slightly larger Boeing 707 from which it is derived. Having a long service career, RC-135s originally flew from remote bases in Alaska and elsewhere to collect data on Soviet ballistic missile testing during the Cold War. With the use of passive sensors, the RC-135 gathers imagery intelligence, telemetry intelligence and signals intelligence. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Davis)

FILE PHOTO -- The basic airframe of the RC-135 resembles that of a slightly larger Boeing 707 from which it is derived. Having a long service career, RC-135s originally flew from remote bases in Alaska and elsewhere to collect data on Soviet ballistic missile testing during the Cold War. With the use of passive sensors, the RC-135 gathers imagery intelligence, telemetry intelligence and signals intelligence. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Davis)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM --  Members of the 398th Air Expeditionary Group prepare an RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft for a misison at a forward deployed Operation Iraqi Freedom location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Members of the 398th Air Expeditionary Group prepare an RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft for a misison at a forward deployed Operation Iraqi Freedom location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- An RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft "Rivet Joint", assigned to the 398th Air Expeditionary Group, takes off from a forward deployed Operation Iraqi Freedom location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- An RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft "Rivet Joint", assigned to the 398th Air Expeditionary Group, takes off from a forward deployed Operation Iraqi Freedom location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

Mission
The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft supports theater and national level consumers with near real time on-scene intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities.

Features
The aircraft is an extensively modified C-135. The Rivet Joint's modifications are primarily related to its on-board sensor suite, which allows the mission crew to detect, identify and geolocate signals throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. The mission crew can then forward gathered information in a variety of formats to a wide range of consumers via Rivet Joint's extensive communications suite.

The interior seats 34 people, including the cockpit crew, electronic warfare officers, intelligence operators and in-flight maintenance technicians.

The Rivet Joint fleet is currently undergoing significant airframe, navigational and powerplant upgrades which include re-engining from the TF-33 to the CFM-56 engines used on the KC-135R and upgrade of the flight deck instrumentation and navigational systems to the AMP standard. The AMP standard includes conversion from analog readouts to a digital "glass cockpit" configuration.

All Rivet Joint airframe and mission systems modifications are overseen by L-3 Communications (previously Raytheon), under the oversight of the Air Force Materiel Command.

Background
The current RC-135 fleet is the latest iteration of modifications to this pool of -135 aircraft going back to 1962. Initially employed by Strategic Air Command to satisfy nationally tasked intelligence collection requirements, the RC-135 fleet has also participated in every sizable armed conflict involving U.S. assets during its tenure. RC-135s were present supporting operations in Vietnam, the Mediterranean for Operation El Dorado Canyon, Grenada for Operation Urgent Fury, Panama for Operation Just Cause, and Southwest Asia for operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. RC-135s have maintained a constant presence in Southwest Asia since the early 1990s.

All RC-135s are assigned to Air Combat Command. The RC-135 is permanently based at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and operated by the 55th Wing, using various forward deployment locations worldwide.

General Characteristics
Primary Function: Reconnaissance
Contractor: L-3 Communications
Power Plant: Four CFM International F108-CF-201 high bypass turbofan engines
Thrust: 21,600 pounds each engine
Unrefueled Range: 3,900 miles (6,500 kilometers)
Length: 135 feet (41.1 meters)
Height: 42 feet (12.8 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 297,000 pounds (133,633 kilograms)
Wingspan: 131 feet (39.9 meters)
Speed: 500+ miles per hour (Mach.66)
Flight Crew: Five (augmented) - three pilots, two navigators
Mission flight crew: 21-27, depending on mission requirements, minimum consisting of three electronic warfare officers, 14 intelligence operators and four inflight/airborne maintenance technicians
Unit Cost: unavailable
Date Deployed: Initial RC-135 conversions from 1964-1968; V/W configurations, 1981
Inventory: Active force, 17; Reserve, 0; Guard, 0 

October 2005