An American spy plane was spotted flying over Pembrokeshire this week, as it headed back home across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Boeing RC-135W Rivet joint intelligence gathering aircraft left Mildenhall in Suffolk and passed across Pembrokeshire at approximately midday on Tuesday, May 31.

While over Pembrokeshire, the aircraft was at approximately 34,000 feet, while maintaining a straight course flying almost directly over Kilgetty, Johnston and Little Haven before crossing over the coastline towards the US.

The plane is flown by 55th Wing United States Air Force and is based at Offutt airbase in Nebraska.

A Pembrokeshire-based plane enthusiast told the Western Telegraph: “It conducts intelligence gathering missions and has flown in support of operations in places such as Kosovo and Libya.

“It would not be a stretch to consider it has recently been deployed in surveillance of the Ukraine conflict.”

Western Telegraph: The Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint seen 34,000 feet above PembrokeshireThe Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint seen 34,000 feet above Pembrokeshire

What is a Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint?

The aircraft has a wingspan of 131ft, with a length of 135ft and height of 42ft, weighing in at approximately 59 tonnes.

According to the United States Air Force website: “The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft supports theatre and national level consumers with near real time on-scene intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities.

“The Rivet Joint's modifications are primarily related to its on-board sensor suite, which allows the mission crew to detect, identify and geolocate signals throughout the electromagnetic spectrum.

“The mission crew can then forward gathered information in a variety of formats to a wide range of consumers via Rivet Joint's extensive communications suite.

“The interior seats more than 30 people, including the cockpit crew, electronic warfare officers, intelligence operators and in-flight maintenance technicians.”


The RC-135 fleet has been used by the United States Air Force since 1962, supporting operations in:

  • Vietnam
  • The Mediterranean for Operation El Dorado Canyon
  • Grenada for Operation Urgent Fury
  • Panama for Operation Just Cause
  • Southwest Asia for operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The RC-135 fleet has maintained a constant presence in southwest Asia since the 1990s.

Western Telegraph: The Boeing RC-135W. Picture: United States Air ForceThe Boeing RC-135W. Picture: United States Air Force