TechUS and UK spy planes conduct reconnaissance over Romania, Black Sea

US and UK spy planes conduct reconnaissance over Romania, Black Sea

Boeing RC-135 Airseeker - illustrative photo
Boeing RC-135 Airseeker - illustrative photo
Images source: © Getty Imags | gsmudger

8:12 AM EDT, March 21, 2024

Defense Romania reports that the United States and the United Kingdom have been conducting strategic research missions along the Romanian coastline and over the Black Sea. These operations involved the use of reconnaissance aircraft RC-135V and RC-135W, often dubbed flying spies due to their prowess in photographic and electronic surveillance.

According to Defense Romania, on March 20, a British Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft bearing the side number ZZ665 and the radio call sign RRR7220 flew over Romania. Two Typhoon fighters accompanied it, and an Airbus KC.2 tanker was nearby. Additionally, on the same day, an American RC-135V Rivet Joint aircraft, with the side number 64-14841 and the radio call sign JAKE17, was also spotted in Romanian skies. The operation included US-owned P-8A Poseidon and Bombardier Challenger 650 aircraft.

Flying spies over Romania

The flight paths of these aircraft could be tracked via online services that display real-time aircraft movements. The Romanian service indicated that the "ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) missions carried out by American and British reconnaissance aircraft aimed likely at monitoring Russian military activities in the Black Sea area." Defense Romania also suggested that the intelligence gathered might assist the Ukrainians in launching drone and maneuvering missile attacks on Russian positions, including in Crimea.

It is important to note Romania's growing significance within NATO, especially on its eastern flank. As previously covered, Romania is set to host NATO's largest base in Europe. A 2.5 billion euro budget has been allocated for its construction, which will feature new runways, aircraft hangars, and various facilities, including schools, kindergartens, shops, and a hospital. The base is planned to span 7,413 acres and accommodate up to 10,000 soldiers permanently.

"The Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base has been a crucial NATO hub for a long time, and additional investments will significantly bolster allied deterrence and defense. In light of Russia's aggressive actions, NATO has reinforced its eastern presence, including deploying a new battle group in Romania and enhancing its air operations. We are preparing to further augment NATO's deterrent and defense capabilities at the upcoming July summit," NATO’s WP Tech stated, responding to queries about the alliance’s expansion plans in Romania.

Introducing the Boeing RC-135V/W Rivet Joint

The Boeing RC-135V/W Rivet Joint aircraft, engineered and manufactured by Boeing for the United States Air Force (USAF), are sophisticated reconnaissance planes. They represent an advanced iteration of the RC-135, also recognized as "Airseeker." These planes are outfitted with various sensors capable of monitoring and pinning down geolocation signals across the electromagnetic spectrum. They can identify various emissions, from radar and electronic signal emissions to communications. The captured data are then securely relayed to operation centers through satellite communication links.

The aircraft boasts a length of 134.8 feet, a height of 42.0 feet, and a wingspan of 130.9 feet. It can take off with a maximum weight of over 293,000 pounds. The RC-135W Rivet Joint can reach top speeds of around 540 mph, with a range of approximately 4,041 miles. Each RC-135V/W Rivet Joint requires a crew of two pilots and one navigator. Additionally, the RC-135W accommodates a crew tasked with conducting the strategic or tactical reconnaissance mission at hand.

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