UK’s Royal Air Force will have the first of its planned three RC-135W aircraft, named the Airseeker project by the RAF (not clear if the aircraft is to be given that name or it’s just the name of the project) by December 2013.
Flight Global ran an article that padded out a few details on the British purchase of the Rivet-Joint aircraft.
The conversion of the ex-US Air Force KC-135 tankers started back in January 2011. The glass cockpit is well advanced in its installation and the first aircraft is thought to be rolling out for its paint scheme during January 2013, with flight testing and acceptance following soon after.
“A number of aircraft skins have been replaced to deal with corrosion and prepare the aircraft for its service life as an RC-135” UK’s Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) said in an article in its monthly publication “Decider”. “Additional work has included removing the tankers refuelling boom system, installing an air-to-air refuelling receiver system above the the cockpit, and replacing every wire in the aircraft. Mission equipment racks have also been fitted in the rear cabin, Progress in the aircraft is on schedule, with delivery on track for December next year.”
RAF crews have been undertaking training at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska on the RC-135V/W aircraft based there and once qualified on the Rivet Joint initial qualification training will be allowed to fly on the U.S Joint Rivet aircraft until the RAF aircraft are ready for service. The first crews arrived at Offutt during January 2011, therefore may have already qualified to operate the type.
The Airseeker aircraft will be operated by 51 Squadron flying from RAF Waddington, that flew the Nimrod until Jun. 29, 2011, when the last two examples of the SIGINT plane were withdrawn from service.
Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
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Is it not slightly strange to replace an aircraft based on a 1952 vintage airliner with another one based on a 1954 vintage airliner?
The KC-135 airframe is one of the most reliable airframes flying today. Yes, they’re quite old (production date and design date), but they don’t make them like that anymore, and there will probably be some flying long after I’m gone at this rate.
Actually, the Nimrods were younger airframes than the 3 KC135s this project is taking on. The in-service dates for the 135s was 1964, and for the first MR1 (which the first R1s were converted from) 1969.