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In the past year, there has been much attention on the budding cooperative relationship between the U.K. and France on security issues. The discussions— over unmanned aircraft cooperation, joint weapons developments, partnering on milsatcom and other efforts—have overshadowed the strengthening of the U.S.-British ties in the far more sensitive area of signals intelligence. It is a domain where the U.S. and U.K. have been working together for decades, but the ties are getting even stronger.As Douglas Barrie, our former colleague and the senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, reports here, the U.K. decision to buy three RC-135 Rivet Joints has led the two countries to embark on a pooling system effectively leading to a 20-aircraft fleet. A U.S. budget document, highlighted in the IISS Voices item, notes that advantages of the pooling system include "complete interoperability with the U.K. ISR program; increased fleet size supporting greater operational coverage; increased funding for upgrades; U.K. manning of Joint Program Office."The U.K. was looking to add some of its own sigint subsystems to the RC-135 fleet, so this pooling arrangement may suggest the U.S. fleet will be similarly upgraded.
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