British Aerospace has revealed details of the new Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft. This Nimrod, the MRA.4 is faster (over 1,000 kilometers per hour), has longer range (at least 10,000 kilometers), and quieter than the MR.2 it is replacing.
The MRA.4 is intended to carry out anti-submarine, anti-ship, and search-and-rescue missions. The major new feature in this plane is the new engines, four Rolls Royce BR710 turbofans (over 600 of these BR710s are in use in Gulfstream and Bombardier long-range business jets). There are also new electronics (mostly improvements to the Searchwater radar, a new ESM suite, advanced sonobouys, and a new electro-optical surveillance system).
The real surprise, though, is the number of planes being produced. The total will be 12, down from an earlier planned production run of 18. This is to replace a total of 27 Nimrod MR.2 aircraft currently in service (a reduction of 60%). This is not as drastic as it sounds. The Soviet submarine menace has largely evaporated from a force of hundreds to a force of maybe four dozen, and these new Nimrods leave the older versions in the dust in terms of performance (older versions boasted a top speed of 926 kilometers per hour and a range of 9,200 kilometers).
The Nimrod also has been a tricky plane to upgrade, hence a flight-test period that will last through 2007. This test protocol is probably going to be very thorough. A planned airborne early-warning variant of the Nimrod was cancelled in favor of the American E-3 AWACS, after development hit numerous snags. Harold C. Hutchison (email@example.com)