Program Briefing

The US Air Force’s primary legacy manned SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) program is the RC-135, with systems mounted on wide-body Boeing 707s. Versions include Rivet Joint (17 aircraft), Combat Sent (2 aircraft), and Cobra Ball (3 aircraft), with development and integration managed by the USAF Big Safari Systems Group. Some funding is publicly declared, but other funding and most program details are classified. In late 2010, the UK request for three new Rivet Joint aircraft was confirmed despite swingeing budget cuts to other major defense programs. Surprisingly, in August 2012 it was con- firmed that in recent years the Royal Saudi Air Force has been operating two highly classified Boeing RE-3 ELINT aircraft, broadly equivalent to the RC-135 Rivet Joint. The US Navy’s primary legacy manned SIGINT program is the EP-3E Aries II, based on the P-3 Orion platform and in service for more than 30 years. In early 2007, the Navy had 12 EP-3Es operational at any one time, but they were scheduled for retirement from 2014-2017. Service life has now been extended, with substantial upgrades, following the 2006 (and again in 2010) cancellation of the follow-on ACS/EP-X airborne SIGINT aircraft. Conversion of four more P- 3Cs to EP-3Es was completed in 2007, giving the Navy a total of 16 EP-3Es.

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