KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- A crew of Royal Air Force aviators deployed to Kadena Air Base in support of a co-manned mission, maintaining RC-135 Rivet Joints. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) and Royal Air Force (RAF) have used their alliance to strengthen bonds and expand the capabilities of each nation’s defense.
In order to replace their fleet of outdated Nimrod surveillance aircraft, the RAF purchased three RC-135 Rivet Joints in 2010. The lack of manpower combined with a desire to have a presence in the Pacific made Kadena a perfect host for the program.
Each country’s maintainers are certified to work on their allied nations’ aircraft. Similarly, the pilots have the same qualifications.
Three British aviators have been integrated into the 82nd Rescue Squadron and work alongside U.S. Air Force Airmen to launch and receive jets, as well as perform routine maintenance.
“We've helped out with a few snags and we've assisted getting the jet in the air at times when they might not have been able to if we weren't here,” said RAF Corporal Adam Thompson. “I think we've maybe brought the spirits up a little bit.”
Since this program is so new, there is no set joint training course. However, all parties are trained on the same aircraft, fostering easy integration into the squadron.
While the allies are trained similarly, there are areas where they can learn from each other. RAF Air Specialist First Class Technician Connor Jenkin said that his team received a more generalized training of the RJ.
“Airmen at the 82nd RS have a lot more in-depth knowledge of their individual trades and individual exposure to the aircraft,” Jenkin said.
Over the course of the few months that the visiting crew has been stationed at Kadena, supervisors have noticed that morale has improved both in and outside the shop. All members of the crew, Airmen and visitors alike, speak of the memories and lasting friendships they made. Each RAF aviator expressed appreciation for the camaraderie they’ve witnessed.
“I will know these guys and speak to them for the rest of my life,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Pohl, NCOIC of the crew.
The deployment to Asia was a shock to the aviators, but Kadena has been especially eye-opening for them. From the high tempo operations, the close proximity to adversaries and the extreme weather, Kadena’s NATO ally has received an in-depth understanding and appreciation for the defense of a free-and-open Indo-Pacific region.
“Well, I see this aircraft as a whole platform shared across two countries,” said RAF Corporal Eliot Beddows. “The more that we can work together on it, it doesn't matter where we are. We'll help make the program better in every way because I feel like we can learn so much from each other. I think both ways round. And I think we've definitely done that through chatting to these guys. It’ll help us both at home and flying missions out here, and help us operate better.”