The USAF Boeing RC-135U Combat Sent took off from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk on Wednesday and flew towards Scotland before heading over the north Atlantic. According to the US Air Force, the aircraft provides strategic electronic reconnaissance information to the US president, Secretary of Defence, Department of Defence leaders and commanders.
It was arguably a rare sighting as there are only two Combat Sent aircraft in the US Air Force’s inventory.
Both are assigned to the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
Combat Sent has a top speed of more than 500 miles per hour, has a wingspan of 135 feet and weighs in at 165,699 pounds (75,160 kilograms). It flies at altitudes upwards of 35,000 feet (10,668+ meters), according to the USAF.
The sighting comes a day after two RAF Typhoon jets were spotted over the Outer Hebrides.
Aircraft and satellite tracker SkyScanWorld said it was possibly a practice operation involving a Dassault Falcon with tanker support from an RAF Airbus Voyager.
RAF fast jets took to the skies over Europe in February as part of a NATO response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
An RAF Voyager was captured on camera refuelling Typhoons on the continent as part of NATO’s Enhanced Vigilance Activity.
The RAF’s contribution to the operation included Typhoon FGR4 aircraft, which operate from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
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It brings to the number of RAF fighter jets stationed in south-eastern Europe t 14 – with eight stationed in Cyprus.
The Typhoon jets and RAF personnel have been deployed to Romania to join NATO’s air policing mission for the Black Sea region.
A defensive operation, air policing is a permanent NATO mission which began in 1961 during the Cold War.
Meanwhile, Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday more than a thousand Ukrainian marines have surrendered in the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol.
The city is Moscow’s main target in the eastern Donbas region which it has yet to bring under its control.
If the Russians seize the Azovstal industrial district, where the marines are holed up, they would be in full control of Mariupol.
It is considered a lynchpin between Russian-held areas to the west and east, providing a land corridor for troops and supplies.
Mariupol would be the first major city to fall to Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine on February 24.