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RC-135 Rivet Joint

RC-135 Rivet Joint
RC-135 Rivet Joint taking off
Description
RoleReconnaissance
Crew27 (augmented): 3 Pilots, 2 Navigators, 22 Recon Crewmembers
Dimensions
Length135 ft41.1 m
Wingspan131 ft39.9 m
Height42 ft12.8 m
Wing area2,433 ft²226 m²
Weights
Empty98,466 lb44,664 kg
Loaded106,306 lb48,220 kg
Maximum take-off297,000 lb134,000 kg
Powerplant
EnginesFour Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-5 turbofans
Thrust16,060 lbf71 kN
Performance
Maximum speed500 mph (Mach 0.66)800 km/h
Combat range3,900 mi6,500 km
Ferry range
Service ceiling44,000 ft13.4 km
Rate of climb

The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint is a United States Air Force reconnaissance aircraft used to support theater and national level consumers with near real-time on-scene intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities.

The aircraft is an extensively modified C-135 (the military version of the Boeing 707). 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 32 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-135 Stratotanker 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 L3's, formerly Raytheon’s, Greenville, Texas facility, under the oversight of the Air Force Materiel Command.

The current RC-135 fleet is the latest iteration of modifications to this pool of aircraft going back to 1964. 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 Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. RC-135s have maintained a constant presence in both Southwest Asia and in the area of the Balkans since the early 1990s.

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

In addition to the RC-135V/W Rivet Joint, two other models are operational. These are the RC-135S Cobra Ball, and the RC-135U Combat Sent; both currently assigned to the 45th Reconnaissance Sq.

General characteristics

  • Contractor: Raytheon
  • Mission flight crew: 21–27, depending on mission requirements, minimum consisting of 3 Electronic Warfare Officers (Ravens), 14 Intelligence Operators and 4 Inflight/Airborne Maintenance Technicians (AMT/IMT)
  • Date Deployed: Initial RC-135 conversions from 1964-1968; V/W configurations, 1981
  • Inventory: Active force, 14; Reserve, 0; Guard, 0
Modern USAF Series Miscellaneous
Attack--OA/A-10,AC-130H/U RC-135V/RC-135W Rivet Joint
Bomber--B-52,-2,-1B,F-117A OC-135B Open Skies
Fighter--F-15/E ,F-16 KC-10 Extender
Electronic--E-3,-4B,-8C EC-130E/J,HKC-135 Stratotanker
Transport--C-5,-17,-141B, -20,-21 MC-130E/H HC-130P/N
C-22B, -32, -130, -37A, -40B/CMC-130P Combat Shadow
Trainers--T-1, -37, -38, -43, -6MH-53J/M Pave Low
Weather--WC-130, -135 HH-60G Pave Hawk
UAV--RQ-1/MQ-1 UAV, Global HawkUH-1N Huey
U-2S/TU-2S
VC-25 – Air Force One

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