Released: October 19, 1999

New aircraft arrives, enhances mission capability

By Tech. Sgt. Tanya Gregory
55th Wing Public Affairs

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (ACCNS) - The 55th Wing here added a new reconnaissance aircraft to its fleet Oct.14.

The jet is the 15th RC-135 Rivet Joint assigned to the 55th WG.

"This plane is a national asset," said Brig. Gen. Ron Sams, 55th WG commander. "This aircraft will help us continue to provide intelligence and reconnaissance to theater commanders around the world. Adding one more plane will significantly enhance our operational capability and training."

The hog-nosed RC-135 Rivet Joint, with its extensive antennae array, provides direct, near real-time reconnaissance information and electronic warfare support to theater commanders and combat forces. The aircraft is a high-altitude version of the C-135, which is a military version of the Boeing 707.

Adding the new Rivet Joint will help the wing meet its mission demands. "We're a low-density, high-demand wing," Sams said. "That means we don't have a lot of planes but we're busy."

"This plane also gives the wing the much-needed relief force to rotate aircraft," said Capt. Alex Cole, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron aircraft commander.

"It also provides more flexible capabilities for our commanders overseas," said Lt. Col. Michael Scacca, 38th RS commander.

Although the new jet brings relief to the 55th WG, the aircraft has been around since 1962 as a C-135B. To perform the Rivet Joint mission it was refitted with sophisticated reconnaissance equipment at the Aeronautical Systems Center in Greenville, Texas. Refitting a perfectly functional airframe and using it for a new mission is an efficient use of taxpayers' dollars, Sams said.

The jet's conversion cost about $90 million, Cole said.

"We plan to use it until the year 2040," Sams said. Offutt should be able to accomplish many missions with this aircraft, he said.

"Our depot people worked hard to get this plane flying," Sams said. "It's a good aircraft, and it's a lot cheaper than adding new assets."

The 38th RS flew the depot team back to Greenville, Texas, Oct. 14 after the ceremony. The Offutt team, commanded by Cole, officially accepted the aircraft and flew it back here Oct.15.

"This plane is so significant because we've needed it for a while," Cole said. "There are limited numbers of these aircraft - this is the only base that has them," he said.

According to Sams, delivery of the new Rivet Joint allows the wing to be more flexible and helps the wing accomplish aircrew training.

"The aircraft and the crews are ready," Sams said. "Now it's time to put this thing to work."

Air Combat Command Public Affairs, United States Air Force, ACC/PAI