US contractor L-3 Communications is set to deliver the new aircraft in August and will join the first RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft that joined the Royal Air Force in late 2013 to replace BAE Nimrod R1 spy planes. The aircraft is expected to be pressed into service against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq within eight weeks of delivery demonstrating the importance of the asset. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed the aircraft’s delivery in August at the Royal United Services Institute think tank conference on July 16th.
Delivery of the aircraft comes as government ministers and senior military officers continue to emphasize the priority being given to ISTAR in the upcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 due to be published at the end of October. However David Cameron has hinted that he wants to place greater emphasis on unmanned assets which brings in to question how many more RC-135s the RAF can expect to receive. There were only three Nimrod R.1s that the American-built aircraft are replacing so the question is will a third be acquired or will drones make up the shortfall?