The RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft first appeared in the airspace of our neighbors Once December 11, sparking a lot of interest. The machine was flying with the transponder turned on, so you can watch it on civilian gates showing air traffic in real time. The second flight of this type took place on December 16. The RC-135 flew from a base in Great Britain and circled Ukraine for six hours, mostly over the southeastern tip. This is near Russia-occupied Crimea and war-torn Donbas.
So far of this type flights It was made by an RQ-4 Global Hawk drone. Manned large machines remained far from the Ukrainian territory, and they monitored Russia either over NATO territory or from international waters. what pay United States of America For such a change in practice, it is unknown. The Americans do not officially comment on the activity of such machines as the RC-135. Perhaps something special was going on that required sending a manned plane with more capabilities than a drone. Or it was just meant to be a message to the Russians with whom NATO is engaged in a war of nerves and diplomatic negotiations over Ukraine. It will also be supported by leaving the transceiver on throughout the flight, which is not mandatory.
RC-135 Rivet Joint Commencement of Missions and Air Refueling
air electronic watch
We won’t know exactly what the RC-135 might notice during its six-hour flight over Ukraine. Details of possibilities and tasks are categorized. As a rule, RQ-135 are electronic intelligence machines, or SIGINT. According to a general official description, they are capable of “detecting, identifying and identifying the source of electromagnetic signals”. The information collected can be transmitted in real time to the High Command or to US forces in the region.
In practice, this means that the machine is capable of, for example, detecting a radar, radio station, electronic warfare system or other device that emits electromagnetic waves during operation. The exact distance is unknown but it is more than 200 km. Thanks to the decades-old database, stored in the mission computers on board the device, operators can determine the source of the emissions. At the same time indicate its location. Everything is in real time.
It is difficult to overstate these possibilities. The RC-135 flying over Ukraine, for example, can monitor almost the entire Crimea, or all areas of Russian concentration. army near the border. Capture signals from currently operating electronic devices and create a map of anti-aircraft battery stations or command points. In addition, evaluate the scale of the concentration of forces in a particular area and their possible intentions, based on the density of contact. For their part, the Russians may be aware of the approach of such an unwelcome visitor and thus shut down key devices that they would rather not show the Americans. They may also be making some attempts to counter their electronic warfare systems.
However, the details of this type of procedure remain undisclosed, and it is mainly an area of guesswork and speculation based on the remaining data. However, there is no doubt that machines such as the RC-135 and RQ-4 are constantly hovering near the border Russia. They are regular guests, among others, in the skies of Poland.
From passenger plane to reconnaissance
The RC-135 is a valuable legacy from the Cold War. Machines of this type were invented in the 50s of the last century to meet the needs of the SAC (Strategic Air Command), which at that time was a major component of the US military power. Its mission was to carry out strategic nuclear strikes against the Soviet Union and its satellite states. In order to provide the greatest possible opportunity for bombers against the defense of the Warsaw Pact airspace, a large-scale reconnaissance system was created. One of its basic elements was SIGINT aircraft, which were supposed to detect various types of Soviet radars, locate them and create a database necessary, among other things, for electronic warfare systems, which began to be installed on other aircraft.
The first RC-135s came into service in the mid-sixties and turned out to be very useful, after a series of updates, they are still in use today. At that time, they not only flew along the borders of the Warsaw Pact countries, but also participated in almost every military conflict in which the United States took part. It also ceased to be a purely SAC tool (which no longer exists, it was disbanded after the Cold War) and became a comprehensive strategic resource for the Pentagon, working for the benefit of the entire US armed forces.
The RC-135 looks like a passenger plane. It was built on the basis of the C-135 transport machines, which in turn developed for Boeing’s first passenger airliner, the B707. However, it is very easy to distinguish them by the presence on the fuselage of various types of antennas and their covers. The most visible are those installed on the sides of the frontal part of the fuselage. Regular RC-135 missions are slightly different from passenger aircraft flights. These are long, quiet cruises close to the borders of the target country. The crew consists of about 20 specialists who operate reconnaissance systems. Each trip could take about a day if the machine was refueled in the air.
In addition to the more popular SIGINT variant, which in its current form is called the Rivet Joint and has the designation RC-135V / W, a number of other, smaller variants were also created. For example, three of them are called Cobra Ball, which have proven equipment to track tests of ICBMs (particularly their warheads exploding in the atmosphere over the Soviet/Russian Kura training ground in Kamchatka). There are also two Combat Sents that specialize in tracking enemy radars to create databases of different types of US weapons. These three are still in use today, but over the course of half a century, many other variants of the RC-135 have also been created. A total of about 30 machines.
The fleet of these machines, backed by overt RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles and possibly undisclosed RQ-180 unmanned aerial vehicles, is a unique instrument on a global scale. No other armed force has such extensive capabilities to track the enemy from the air. In combination with the largest constellation of reconnaissance satellites, it is a system that gives Americans a lot of information about a potential enemy. One that is not usually included in the “world’s most powerful armed forces” and the like, but translates into the potential of the US military to an even greater extent than hundreds of tanks.
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