The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod was a maritime patrol aircraft developed and operated by the United Kingdom. It is an extensive modification of the de Havilland Comet, the world’s first jet airliner. It was originally designed by de Havilland‘s successor firm, Hawker Siddeley; further development and maintenance work was undertaken by Hawker Siddeley’s own successor companies, British Aerospace and BAE Systems, respectively.
Designed in response to a requirement issued by the Royal Air Force (RAF) to replace its fleet of ageing Avro Shackletons, the Nimrod MR1/MR2 were primarily fixed-wing aerial platforms for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations; secondary roles included maritime surveillance and anti-surface warfare. It served from the early 1970s until March 2010. The intended replacement was to be extensively rebuilt Nimrod MR2s, designated as Nimrod MRA4; however due to considerable delays, repeated cost overruns, and financial cutbacks, the development of the MRA4 was abandoned in 2010.
In addition to the three Maritime Reconnaissance variants, two further Nimrod types were developed. The RAF operated a small number of Nimrod R1, an electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT) variant. A dedicated airborne early warning platform, the Nimrod AEW3 was in development from late 1970s to the mid-1980s; however, much like the MRA4, considerable problems were encountered in development and thus the project was cancelled in 1986 in favour of an off-the-shelf solution in the Boeing E-3 Sentry. All Nimrod variants had been retired by mid-2011.
Three Nimrod aircraft were adapted for the signals intelligence role, replacing the Comet C2s and Canberras of No. 51 Squadron in May 1974. The R1 was visually distinguished from the MR2 by the lack of a MAD boom. It was fitted with an array of rotating dish aerials in the aircraft’s bomb-bay, with further dish aerials in the tail cone and at the front of the wing-mounted fuel tanks. It had a flight crew of four (two pilots, a flight engineer and one navigator) and up to 25 crew operating the SIGINT equipment.
The Nimrod R1 was based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, England, and flown by 51 Sqn. The two remaining Nimrod R1s were originally planned to be retired at the end of March 2011, but operational requirements forced the RAF to deploy one to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus on 16 March in support of Operation Ellamy. The last flight of the type was on 28 June 2011 from RAF Waddington, in the presence of the Chief of the Air Staff, ACM Sir Stephen Dalton. Aircraft XW664 was transferred to East Midlands Aeropark on 12 July 2011 and will go on public display once classified systems have been removed. The R1 is to be replaced by three Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft, acquired under the Airseeker project with deliveries starting in November 2013.
- Role: Maritime Patrol, ELINT
First Flight: 23 May 1967
Manufacturer: Hawker Siddeley, BAE Systems
Primary Users: Royal Air Force
Numbers Built: 49 + 2 prototypes
Developed from: De Havilland Comet
Variants: Nimrod AEW3, Nimrod MRA4