U.S. Air Force deploys "Rivet Joint" signals intelligence aircraft to the Caribbean.
Early in the morning of July 9th 2020 SAMMY98, a U.S. Air Force RC-135V "Rivet Joint" took off from Offutt Air Force Base just south of Omaha Nebraska. Gaining altitude the aircraft headed south towards the Gulf of Mexico. Using a few different tracking website's we are able to see that they likely went to surveil the coast of Venezuela.
SPUR60 a KC-135R "Stratotanker" aerial refuelling aircraft departed from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Florida and headed south west for half an hour till they passed out of tracking range. Again using a few different tracking websites we can follow them to their meet up. They finish topping up and SPUR60 heads back to MacDill arriving around 6 hours after departure.
One possible reason for the increased surveillance is in recent days both Tareck El Aissami, and Diosdado Cabello have posted on social media that they have tested positive for COVID-19. These 2 men are among the most powerful people in Venezuela, deeply involved in both the regime and its corruption. The U.S. Justice Department is offering a $10 Million reward each for information leading to their arrest.
DETAILS ABOUT THE RC-135V RIVET JOINT:
The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft supports 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 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 more than 30 people, including the cockpit crew, electronic warfare officers, intelligence operators and in-flight maintenance technicians.
The Rivet Joint fleet was re-engined with CFM-56 engines with an upgraded flight deck instrumentation and navigational systems to FAA/ICAO standards. These standards include conversion from analog readouts to a digital "glass cockpit" configuration.
All Rivet Joint airframe and mission systems modifications are overseen by L-3 Communications (previously Raytheon), under the oversight of Air Force Materiel Command.
The current RC-135 fleet is the latest iteration of modifications to this pool of -135 aircraft going back to 1962. 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 operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. RC-135s have maintained a constant presence in Southwest Asia since the early 1990s.
All RC-135s are assigned to Air Combat Command. The RC-135 is permanently based at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and operated by the 55th Wing, using various forward deployment locations worldwide. More recently, RC-135s have also supported Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, and Operation Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector in Libya
Power Plant:Four CFM International F108-CF-201 high bypass turbofan engines
Thrust:21,600 pounds each engine
Wingspan:131 feet (39.9 meters)
Length:135 feet (41.1 meters)
Height:42 feet (12.8 meters)
Weight:173,000 pounds (78,743 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight:297,000 pounds (133,633 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity:130,000 pounds (58,967 kilograms)
Speed:500+ miles per hour (Mach.66)
Range:3,900 miles (6,500 kilometers)
Ceiling:50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Crew:(flight crew) five (augmented) - three pilots, two navigators; (mission flight crew) 21-27, depending on mission requirements, minimum consisting of three electronic warfare officers, 14 intelligence operators and four inflight/airborne maintenance technicians
Initial operating capability:January 1964
Inventory:Active force, 17; Reserve, 0; Guard, 0