What special effects does RC-135 ultimately have, how much threat does it pose to enemies?
The Boeing RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft is one of the most effective weapons of the US military, although this aircraft has been born for a long time. The aircraft built by Boeing based on the C-135 Stratolifter airframe, various types of RC-135s have been in service since 1961, this is one of the largest reconnaissance aircraft in the world. The crew consists of 2 pilots and 1 navigator, its capacity is from 21 to 27 people depending on mission requirements, minimum consisting of 3 Electronic Warfare Officers, 14 Intelligence Operators and 4 Airborne Systems Engineers.
In 1959 the cold war broke out in a stalemate between the United States and the Soviet Union, the two sides were caught up in the seemingly endless arms race to retaliate against each other. At this point, the United States recognized a need to collect data on Soviet Union weapons testing in order to prepare their own weapons for a potential strike.
Launched in 1961, a total of 32 RC-135s were produced with more than a dozen variants to meet the requirements of the US Air Force.
Based on the C-135 Stratolifter airframe, RC-135 has a length of 41.5m, a wingspan of 39.9m and a height of 12.7m, the empty weight is 56.3t and the Maximum takeoff weight of 146.3t. RC-135 retains the four-engine configuration of the C-135 Stratolifter with two under each wing. The wings are sweepback along both leading and training edges. The tail is made up of a conventional plane arrangement featuring a single fin with low-set horizontal planes. A tricycle undercarriage is used for ground-running.
The original RC-135 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-9 turbofan engine but was later replaced by the more powerful CFM International F-108-CF-201 turbofan engines each of which can produce 22,000lbf of thrust. The new engine reduces fuel consumption, noise and emissions. RC-135 can reach a maximum speed of 933 km/h with a range of 5500 km and up to a ceiling of 15000m, rate of climb is listed at 25 m/s.
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The RC-135 features an all-digital glass cockpit, it is also fitted with a traffic alert collision avoidance system , UHF radios, satellite antenna and an electro-optic camera. Onboard electro-optic sensors fitted in the aircraft trace geo-located signals within the electro-magnetic spectrum and transfer the captured data to operators through secure satellite communication data link. A uniquely-formed nose assembly housing sensors along the sides of the nose, are embedded antennas for the “Automatic ELINT Emitter Locator System”. The fuselage’s dorsal spine also sees a broad collection of antennas running aft of the cockpit to just-ahead of the tail fin. Along the belly are seen more protrusions.
The first of a long line of RC-135 variants was ordered in 1962. This photographic reconnaissance RC-135A entered service during the mid-1960s, followed by the first of the electronic intelligence gatherers, the RC-135B. All subsequent RC variants were produced by upgrade from standards version, culminating in the RC-135V and RC-135W, operated under the Rivet Joint codename that has become internationally, and officially recognised in US Air Force parlance.
These reconnaissance aircraft were soon used in the early 1960s, the RC-135 fleet has participated in every armed conflict involving U.S. forces during its tenure. RC-135s supported operations in Vietnam War, supporting air and ground forces of Operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, which continues to this day. RC-135s have maintained a constant presence in Southwest Asia since the early 1990s. They were stalwarts of Cold War operations, with missions flown around the periphery of the USSR and its client states in Europe and around the world.
Rivet Joint has been deployed extensively for Operation Shader and on other operational taskings. It had been formally named Airseeker, but is almost universally known in service as the RC-135W Rivet Joint.