25 years of RAF Nimrods

ON OCTOBER 2, 1969, HS Nimrod MR.1 XV230 was delivered to trie Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) at RAF St Mawgan to become the first Nimrod to enter operational service with the RAF. The Nimrod grew from Air Staff Target (AST) 357 issued in July 1963 which defined the RAF’s requirements for a maritime reconnaissance aircraft to replace the Shackleton by the year 1972. This date was later brought forward to 1968.

Hawker Siddeley submitted the HS800, based on the Trident airliner, in April 1964, but the AST was again revised calling for an interim aircraft to enter service in 1966! Hawker Siddeley’s response was to offer a maritime conversion of its proven airliner, the Comet 4C, theHS801.

An order for two prototypes and 38 production aircraft — named Nimrod — was placed in January 1966. The last two production Comet 4C airframes had their Avon engines replaced by the Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans and XVI48, the first aerodynamic prototype, flew on May 23,1967,

The first production Nimrod MR.l, XV226, first flew on June 28,1968 and completed 479 hours of development flying at Boscombe Down before entering operational service in January 1973.

Four squadrons — 201, 120, 206, and 42 — flew the Nimrod MR. 1 from St Mawgan and Kinloss before converting to the more capable MR.2P conversions in 1979. The major improvements featured in the MR.2P (35 of which were completed) included the replacement of the ASV Mk 21 radar with the extremely powerful Searchwater radar, and the upgrading of the four computers employed to manage the sensors which resulted in a 50-fold increase in the computing power of the MR.l compared with the MR.2.

During its career, the Nimrod has played major roles in two conflicts, in the Falklands and the Gulf, as well as being involved in the Coo1 Wars with Iceland in the 1970s.

Although the ending of the Cold War has seen its blue water anti-submarine role diminished, the present Nimrod fleet is supporting the UN blockade of Bosnia, as well as fulfilling its ASW and SAR roles, deployments to the Falklands and taking part in NATO exercises.

However, the search will soon be on for the Nimrod’s replacement, scheduled to be in service by 2001, although there are many who consider the best replacement would be an updated Nimrod.

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