Number of Missions—7,000 and Counting

The Air Force’s fleet of RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft have flown more than 7,000 combat missions supporting US Central Command in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa. The milestone flight came on Feb. 6 with a mission over Afghanistan. The Rivet Joint has flown combat operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility since August 1990 under Desert Shield, the run-up to the first Gulf War. Since then, officials at Offutt AFB, Neb., home to the 55th Wing, estimate the Rivet Joint force has flown more than 50,000 combat hours in Southwest Asia. “It’s been a real honor to be in a program that has been in theater for 19 years now,” said MSgt. Jeffrey Parris, an airborne mission supervisor, deployed with the 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. Lt. Col. Tom Nicholson, 763rd ERS commander, noted, “Seven thousand missions is a big deal for us.” He said that the mission of the recon platform had changed over the years from a strategic focus to a tactical information focus. The strategic capability still exists with “a broad spectrum of collections under the [signals intelligence] moniker, so we do have products that go national and they are significant,” explained Nicholson. However, he added that the number of operators on the platform enables them to “really focus” on a tactical level.” (379th Air Expeditionary Wing report by SrA. Brok McCarthy)