Boeing 707A number of countries are known to have introduced SIGINT versions of old Boeing 707 aircraft into their inventory.
It is believed that 4 Boeing RC707 aircraft are operated by the IAF, two in the SIGINT role and two in the ECM role. The aircraft are known as Re'em (Antelope) and are operated by 134 Tayeset at Lod. Some other IAF 707s are possibly configured for AAR/SIGINT operations. Some of the ELINT aircraft incorporate a cheek-antenna array externally similar to the AEELS (Automatic ELINT Emitter Locating System) on the RC-135U/V/W. Israel is currently looking for up to 9 dual role aircraft to replace their 707’s and will purchase a number of Gulfstream G500s.
In 2004 the first Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) SIGINT Boeing RE-3A visited UK. This aircraft, which started life as a KE-3A tanker, is the first of possibly 3 aircraft being converted by the E Systems Division of Raytheon, Texas to the RE-3A configuration. Its is believed that two versions of the aircraft will eventually be in service, the RE-3A, equipped with the Tactical Airborne Surveillance System (TASS) and the RE-3B equipped with the Improved Tactical Airborne Surveillance System (ITASS).
The most obvious change to the aircraft is the addition of the ‘chipmunk cheeks’ on the forward fuselage of the aircraft. These bulges contain the sensors used to collect SIGINT and although they appear identical to those on the RC-135V and RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft, it is understood that they contain a slightly different sensor suite. Numerous small SIGINT antenna are also mounted beneath the aircraft. It would be interesting to discover exactly who the RSAF target this aircraft against, presumably other Arab countries, most probably Iran. As well as the US and Saudi Arabia, both Israel and South Africa operate ELINT 707 aircraft fitted with the tell-tale ‘chipmunk cheeks’ SIGINT systems, built in Israel and mounted on the forward fuselage.
60 Squadron of the South African Air Force (SAAF) based at Waterkloof are known to operate 3 modified Boeing 707’s in the SIGINT role, at least 2 of which are also configured for AAR operations. Displaying the close links that the SAAF have with the IAF, all 3 aircraft incorporate the cheek-antenna array externally similar to the AEELS (Automatic ELINT Emitter Locating System) on the RC-135U/V/W.
Since March 1998 a single Boeing 707-351C Santiago (TM.17-4 ‘408-21’) has been operated by 408 Escuadron of the Spanish Air Force at Torrejon Air Base, which is also the location of the Centro de Inteligencia Aerea (Air Intelligence Centre). Configured for COMINT/ELINT and OPINT, the aircraft was modified and refurbished by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and equipped with elctronics provided by Elta and the Spanish Indra group. The aircraft was equipped with the Elta EL/L-8300 SIGINT system and the Tamam Stabilised Long Range Observation System (SLOS) this is a very high resolution TV camera and video recording system with a range over 62 miles (100km). It is understood that this aircraft frequently operates around the western edge of North Africa, the Western Sahara and the Mediterranean.
The Indian Air Force is believed to operate one Boeing 707 configured for ELINT duties and mainly targeted against Pakistan.
Angola is believed to opeate one 707, D2-MAY, that was modified in Israel with a variety of ELINT equipment and a long-range stabilized camera system.
At the time of the Flaklands War in 1982, the Fuerza Aerea Argentina (FAA) possessed 3 Boeing 707's which were assigned to 1 Brigada Aerea Grupo 1 de Transporte, Escuadron II based at Buenos Aires. Although the aircraft usually operated carrying passengers / freight and carried no special equipment, the FAA decided to use the aircraft for reconnaissance and surveillance duties against the British Task Force heading south to liberate the Falkland Islands. On 21 Apr 82 aircraft TC-91 detected the British Task Force at 0900hrs well out into the South Atlantic. The aircraft was detected at range by the Task Force and a Sea Harrier from 800 NAS flown by Lt Simon Hargreaves intercepted the aircraft. The Sea Harrier was carrying the usual compliment of 2 Sidewinder missiles and as it shephered the 707 away, the implied threat was made clear.
On 22 May 82 another 707 from Escuadron II had a lucky escape when it managed to evade 4 Sea Dart missiles launched by the Task Force. The risk of further sorties was too great and from that point on the 707's made no further attempt to find the Task Force.
In 1982, from experience gained in the Falklands War, Argentina began a study into the need for an ELINT aircraft. In 1986 a Boeing 707-387C, serial no TC-93, was converted by IAL into an ELINT aircraft under programme FAS-240 and given the new serial no VR-21. The aircraft underwent a complete overhaul at the IAL factory in 1997,including the installation of a number of new ELINT systems, and emerged painted in an overall grey colour scheme. The aircraft is operated by Escuadron V based at El Palomar AFB to the west of Buenos Aires.
Iran has operated a single ELINT 707-3J9C 5-8316 for a number of years. The equipment fit is not known, but given the general embargo on selling military equipment to this extreme regime, I would imagine most of it is locally produced and lags considerably behind modern western systems. The receivers appear to be mounted within the fuselage bulges just below the wing roots.
Paul Revere 707
The Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JFEX) is a Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF) sponsored Major Command executed series of experiments that combine live flying, live ground play of army and naval forces, simulations and the introduction of new technologies in a near-seamless warfighting environment.
Between 15 Jul and 5 Aug 04, Nellis AFB, Nevada staged JFEX 04, starting with a simulated combat phase and ending with a live flying phase when various combat aircraft were supported by a variety of ISTAR aircraft. A unique aircraft employed at JFEX 04 was a civilian registered Boeing 707 operated by the Air Force Material Command’s Task Force Paul Revere, based at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts. The Boeing 707 was originally used as a commercial airliner and retired to the Arizona desert at the end of its service. In 1980 the aircraft was resorted to flying condition and by 2001 it had been converted into a flying laboratory by workers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory. Although on the civil register, as well as being maintained and flown by civilians, the aircraft actually belongs to the US government.
Crewed by a mixture of Air Force, Department of Defence personnel and government contractors, the Paul Revere 707, initially refered to as the MC2A-X, is used to test and experiment with airborne battle management, command , control and communication technology and concepts, in preparation for the planned Boeing E-10A. During JAFEX 04 the aircraft acted as an airborne relay centre/command post using multiple data links to exchange and fuse information from a variety of airborne and space sensors and the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre (CAOC). Of even more significance was the ability of the aircraft’s systems to also exchange data back to staff in the Pentagon.