The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) will receive three US- built RC-135V/W Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft to replace its Nimrod R1 signals intelligence planes.

The RAF’s RC-135V/W aircraft will use Boeing 707 airframes, based on the US Air Force’s tanker fleet, according to the Financial Times.

L-3 Communications will modify, refurbish and install mission systems on the aircraft, before the first plane is delivered in 2014.

The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint aircraft is expected to fill the gap in the UK’s electronic intelligence capabilities.

The cost of the Rivet Joint planes, including installing ground terminal gear, training crews and buying other equipment, is estimated to be nearly $1bn.

UK Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said it was the most cost-effective and the only viable option meeting British military requirements

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It beat out proposals to develop a new mission system for the R1 airframe or a modified Nimrod MRA4 airframe.

The RC-135V/W is a reconnaissance aircraft with near real-time on-scene collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities.

It has been modified from the original C-135 with on-board sensors that enable the crew to detect, identify and geolocate signals throughout the electromagnetic spectrum.