18 Jul 2006

British Defence Secretary Des Browne (far right) says the Government has given the go-ahead to the programme.

Image caption: The new BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 performs a flypast at the Farnborough Airshow.

The Rt Hon Des Browne MP, Secretary of State for Defence, announced today at Farnborough International 2006 that the UK government has signed a production contract with BAE Systems for a 12-aircraft fleet of the next-generation Nimrod aircraft, the MRA4, successor to the in-service Nimrod MR2. Immediately following the announcement, the Nimrod MRA4 made its first public appearance as it performed a fly-past in the skies above Farnborough.

Mike Turner, chief executive of BAE Systems, said: “The new Nimrod MRA4 is a world leader in terms of maritime patrol platforms and will give the UK at least 30 years of adaptable capability in maritime reconnaissance and attack operations. The aircraft has the potential to fulfil a number of important strategic roles for the RAF. The Nimrod programme has also broken new ground in terms of the close working relationship that was formed between BAE Systems and our customer – and we have learnt some valuable lessons in project management that are now benefiting the whole of our business”.

Key to winning the customer’s confidence has been the Company’s steady progress since 2003 on design maturity and the preliminary work that has been done on the through-life support programme, a vital element in ensuring a smooth transition from the in-service Nimrod MR2 fleet to the successful delivery of the new MRA4 to the front line.

The Nimrod MRA4, which had its maiden flight in August 2004, is a highly-capable maritime reconnaissance and intelligence gathering platform with a sophisticated mission system, excellent communications, advanced defensive aids and the potential to carry a wide range of modern weapons. Nimrod’s new integrated mission system enables the crew to gather, process and display up to 20 times more technical and strategic data than the MR2 variant currently in service with the Royal Air Force. The aircraft will also give the RAF an increased range of operations of over 6,000 miles and 14 hours’ loiter time without refuelling.

In a schedule that is expected to continue through 2007, three Nimrod MRA4 development aircraft have already conducted more than 125 trial flights, including live link-ups with Royal Navy destroyers, at sea. Successful missions include the MRA4’s first overseas deployment, for hot weather trials in Sicily.

A comprehensive five-year partnered support proposal, which will detail management of the RAF’s transition from the in-service Nimrod MR2 to the new MRA4, is being prepared for submission to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2007.