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The 488th Intelligence Squadron is responsible for a variety of missions that provide critical intelligence to tactical warfighters and national decision-makers. It provides intelligence to NATO and allied forces, US national decision-makers, and tactical warfighters both on the ground and in the air. The 488th Intelligence Squadron performs this mission as part of an integrated electronic combat team aboard RC-135V/W RIVET JOINT aircraft.

The aircraft is an extensively modified C-135. 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 the RIVET JOINT's extensive communications suite. The interior seats 32 people, including the cockpit crew, electronic warfare officers, intelligence operators and airborne systems engineers.

488th Intelligence Squadron airborne mission specialists also help to ensure that friendly air and ground command and control communications are secure. Additional functions of the 488th include support to search and rescue operations.

The 488th Intelligence Squadron is headquartered at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom, approximately 60 miles north of London. The 488th Intelligence Squadron also maintains a detachment at Operating Location Souda Bay, Greece. Although located in Europe, the 488th Intelligence Squadron is an Air Combat Command asset and is assigned to the 55th Wing, which is headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

The 488th Intelligence Squadron traces its lineage back to Detachment 1, 6985th Security Squadron at Royal Air Force Upper Heyford, England, June 1967. It was designated the 6988th Electronic Security Squadron in June 1980 to honor a unit based at Yokota Air Base which was inactivated in 1972. The last redesignation of the squadron occurred October 1, 1993 when it became the 488th Intelligence Squadron.