On 15 December, the Royal Air Force (RAF) has declared its fleet of three Boeing RC-135W AIRSEEKER Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) gathering aircraft to be operational.

The third and final RC-135W was received by the RAF in late September, marking the end of the U$1 billion acquisition programme. In British service, the RC-135W is known as the Airseeker. All three aircraft are deployed with 51 Squadron based at RAF Waddington in the east of England, media reports state that they are expected to remain in service until circa 2045. The new aircraft replace the RAF’s BAE Systems/Hawker Siddeley NIMROD R1 ELINT gathering aircraft, which was withdrawn from air force service in 2011.

The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed that AIRSEEKER aircraft have supported Operation "SHADER," the UK contribution to the US-led Operation "INHERENT RESOLVE" directed against self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS aka ISIS aka DAESH). It is believed that the British aircraft have been assisting the collection of IS communications intelligence and also disrupting such communications.

Thomas Withington



The RAF has declared its fleet of three RC-135W aircraft operational. (Photo: USAF)

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