posted on Jul, 8 2013 @ 06:54 PM
The US and UK are currently working on a Memorandum of Understanding for use of US KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft to refuel the new RC-135 Airseeker
aircraft the UK are due to receive at the end of the year. The aircraft do not currently have, nor is there any plan to fit, a refueling probe, and
require a boom refueling system.
During coalition operations it won't be a problem, as UK and US aircraft routinely refuel from each others tankers. The problem would be operations
not involving the US.
The first aircraft will declare IOC in 2014, with delivery of the other aircraft every two years. Full IOC will be declared in 2017. Aircraft number
one will be a baseline 10 system, the second will have baseline 11, the third will have baseline 12. The UK should also get a say in future
developments for the aircraft.
The UK Royal Air Force and the USAF are working on a memorandum of understanding which will give the UK access to tankers equipped with refueling
booms to support its fleet of RC-135 Rivet Joint intelligence-gathering aircraft.
Officers close to the Airseeker program, which will cover the procurement of three Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joints, tell Aviation Week they hope to have
the MoU in place by the end of this year when the first RAF Rivet Joint arrives in the UK. The support is essential as the UK does not have any
air-to-air refueling aircraft fitted with a boom, and there are no plans to add a probe to refuel from drogue-equipped aircraft in a bid to reduce
costs in the Foreign Military Sales program.
According to officials the endurance of the RC-135 will be limited from the 9,000 ft. runway of the aircraft’s planned homebase of RAF Waddington,
Lincolnshire. Officials point out that the UK ISTAR assets are regular users of USAF tankers based in Europe. British E-3D Sentry airborne early
warning aircraft routinely top-up their tanks from USAF KC-135s based at RAF Mildenhall in the UK or from aircraft detached to the NATO base at
Geilenkirchen in Germany which support the E-3As flown by NATO’s E-3A Component.