Whether it’s performing strategic bombing missions in World War II, defending Europe during the Cold War, monitoring Iraqi no-fly zones, or battling the Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force and the U.K. Royal Air Force have been close allies for many years.
Recently, this partnership was bolstered once again when an agreement was reached between Department of Defense and the U.K. Ministry of Defense officials that allow the RAF members to purchase three RC-135V/W Rivet Joint aircraft during the next seven years.
As part of this new agreement, Airmen here were tasked to train the initial cadre of RAF aircrews. The Airmen here have the Air Force’s only operational RC-135 wing, the sole provider of Rivet Joint initial qualification training.
Once trained, the RAF crews will be allowed to fly on U.S. Rivet Joint aircraft, called co-manning, until the U.K.’s RC-135 fleet reaches full operational capability.
The first group of RAF aircrew members are scheduled to arrive Jan. 11.
“We are truly excited about this unique opportunity to have members of the RAF training with us here,” said Brig. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan, the 55th Wing commander. “The U.K.-U.S. special relationship has been the cornerstone of relations between the two countries and we look forward to strengthening our intelligence ties through this cooperative arrangement.”
“The RAF is delighted to be joining the (Rivet Joint) component in a new era of joint training and operations,” said RAF Wing Commander Garry Crosby, who is in the initial training group and will assume command of 51 Squadron in June.
The visiting RAF personnel will be assigned to the 338th Combat Training Squadron while at Offutt. They’ll participate in course work that is standard curriculum for anyone in the Air Force assigned to the RC-135V/W Rivet Joint.
“The U.K. will be able to fly their own global ISR missions, as well as offer relief to 55th Wing aircrews by shouldering some portion of 55th WG-tasked ISR missions,” General Shanahan said. “As part of this agreement, 55th Wing aircrews will also be permitted to fly on RAF RC-135 aircraft.”
The remaining RAF crew members participating in the program have backgrounds with either the E-3 Sentry or the Nimrod MR2 reconnaissance and maritime patrol aircraft.Training will take between three and five months depending on specific crew positions. Once complete, the RAF aircrew members will be attached to the 55th Wing’s 343rd Reconnaissance Squadron and return to the U.K.
The fully mission capable RAF personnel will have the ability to deploy from their home station alongside crews from the here starting as early as mid-2011.
– US Air Force