The UK has extended its support agreement with the US for the L3 Technologies RC-135W Rivet Joint Airseeker.

The extension of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Defence Equipment & Support’s chief executive officer Sir Simon Bollom on behalf of the UK.

The contract is worth £970m and will ensure continued support for the aircraft until 2035.

Bollom commented: “Extending Airseeker support reaffirms the continuing cooperation between the UK and US in this important Defence capability area.”

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) said: “Airseeker support is provided by the unique venture between the United States Air Force and the UK MOD – known as the Rivet Joint Cooperative Programme – which was due to expire in 2025 and will now continue until the UK out of service date in 2035.”

The agreement will continue to benefit from maintenance, spare parts, engineering support, technical data and access to capability updates.

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RC-135W Rivet Joint is a dedicated electronic surveillance aircraft that can be employed in all theatres on strategic and tactical missions. It works by using its sensors to detect, identify and geolocate signals throughout the electromagnetic spectrum.

The aircraft are operated by the 51 Squadron out of Royal Air Force (RAF) Waddington as part of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) programme.

ISTAR Force Commander Air Commodore Nick Hay said: “This is an important step in reinforcing both nations’ commitment to exploit cutting-edge technologies on intelligence operations from both the UK and overseas out to 2035.”

Commenting on the MOU, Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: “The Rivet Joint Cooperative Programme is a fantastic example of the UK/US special relationship and the support for our Airseeker fleet has been extended for a further decade.

“With a commitment to invest almost £1bn, this agreement will ensure that we, and our allies, can benefit from the aircraft’s impressive surveillance capability for years to come.”