BAE Systems Nimrod

Aircraft Profile

Key Facts

Main Role:
Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine aircraft
Mid-wing multi-engined jet
United Kingdom
Current Status:
Out of Service, Out of Production

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Second prototype MRA.4 ZJ518 makes it’s first flight.
(photo, BAE SYSTEMS)


Named after the ‘mighty hunter’ described in the Bible (Genesis X, 8-12) the Nimrod has successfully patrolled the seas around the British Isles for more than three decades. Successive updates have maintained the pre-eminence of the Nimrod in its primary role of hunting and killing enemy submarines, and a new upgraded version is now under development.

After an abortive attempt at finding a NATO-standard Maritime Patrol Aircraft had failed in 1959, a renewed attempt to replace the Avro Shackleton in the maritime patrol role began in July 1963 when Air Staff Target (AST) 357 was issued. This called for a sophisticated medium-sized jet-powered aircraft. Proposals submitted included the HS.800, a tri-jet design based on the Hawker Siddeley Trident, but the estimated costs involved in developing such an aircraft proved much too high. This became clear in June 1964 when Air Staff Requirement (ASR) 381 was issued, calling for a much less capable aircraft which could match or exceed the performance of the French Breguet Atlantic.

In an attempt to prevent the French aircraft from winning the contest, engineers at Hawker Siddeley (formerly Avro) at Chadderton came up with the idea of mating the proven Comet airframe with an under fuselage pannier similar to the one developed for the HS.800 proposal. In a very short space of time, the design office developed an unpressurised lower fuselage fairing which snugly fitted over the lower portion of the Comet fuselage, giving it a distinctive ‘double-bubble’ shape. Extending from the nose to the rear fuselage the pannier brought a dramatic increase in useable space for operational equipment and weapons while minimising additional drag. By replacing the existing Rolls-Royce Avon engines with new, less-thirsty, Spey turbofan engines a very acceptable endurance could be achieved. To keep costs down, much of the mission avionics would be similar to that already used in the Shackleton. Designated HS.801, the Comet derivative was offered to meet ASR 381 in July 1964.

In February 1965 it was announced in Parliament that the HS.801 had been selected to replace the Shackleton. A fixed price contract for thirty eight production aircraft was agreed in January 1966, at which time the name Nimrod was selected. In the meantime the conversion of two unsold Comet 4C airframes to act as prototypes had begun. The first to fly, XV148, took the role of aerodynamic test vehicle. It was fitted with a early version of the fuselage fairing and also served to flight test the Spey engine installation. The second prototype, XV147, retained its original Avon engines to reduce risk and timescales, and assumed the role of avionics testbed. Less than a year later, on 28 June 1968, the first new-build production Nimrod MR.Mk 1 took to the air. The flight test programme was remarkably trouble free and on 2 October 1969 the RAF took delivery of its first aircraft, the Maritime Operational Conversion Unit (MOCU – later 236 OCU) at St Mawgan in Cornwall being the first to operate the type. Production aircraft were soon being delivered to operational units at RAF Kinloss, Morayshire, and at RAF St Mawgan, Cornwall. The last unit to begin re-equipping was 203 Sqn at Luqa on Malta, which received its first aircraft in October 1971.

While production was getting underway, it was realised that the Nimrod airframe would make an ideal replacement for the ageing Comet 4Cs still used by the RAF for Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) duties. The Comet offered ample internal space for electronic equipment and excellent cruise performance. Accordingly, three additional airframes were ordered under the designation Nimrod R.Mk 1, with the first being delivered to 51 Squadron at RAF Wyton as virtually an empty shell in July 1971. Over the next three years a complex array of sophisticated electronic eavesdropping equipment was fitted to the three aircraft, resulting in a large number of antennae appearing on the fuselage. The aircraft initially only differed externally in having the MAD probe in the tail deleted and dieletric radomes in the nose of each external wing tank and in the tailcone.

Over the years, the R.Mk 1 aircraft have undergone numerous equipment upgrades as electronic surveillance becomes ever more sophisticated. Some of the cabin windows have been blocked up to allow installation of more equipment, and the fuselage antennae have exhibited several changes. Around 1982 the three R.Mk 1s gained wing tip ESM (Electronic Sensing Measures) pods of a design later fitted to the AEW.Mk 3. and MR.Mk 2 variants. In 1995 R. 1 XW666 was lost in an accident after an engine fire. To replace it, MR.1 XV249 was converted to R.1 standard. The R.1 has played a low profile but key role in many conflicts, from the Falklands War to the 2003 Second Gulf War, identifying and classifying enemy air defence systems and gathering information on enemy activities.

Meanwhile, an order for a second batch of eight MR.1s (bringing the total to 46) was announced in January 1972 to bring the existing Nimrod squadrons up to full strength. The 1974 defence cuts resulted in 203 Sqn being disbanded in 1977. It’s Nimrods were flown back to the UK and placed in storage. In 1975 work began on a comprehensive avionics upgrade for the MR.1. The new equipment suite included a Thorn EMI Searchwater radar in place of the aging ASV-21D unit, a new GEC Central Tactical System and the AQS-901 acoustics system compatible with the latest ‘Barra’ sonobuoys. Thirty-five MR.1 were upgraded to the new MR.2 standard, with the first aircraft being redelivered to 201 Sqn on 23 August 1979.

The invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 brought the Nimrod to public attention. Eight MR.2s were fitted with ex-Vulcan in-flight refuelling probes on the fuselage and small swept finlets on the tailplane in the space of just 18 days under the designation MR.2P. The previously unused underwing hardpoints were adapted to carry Sidewinder missiles, allowing the MR.2P to be described in the popular press as the world’s largest fighter. Patrols were flown over the south Atlantic looking for Argentine submarines and surface vessels, and also in support of British operations from Ascension Island. In the late 1980s, all MR.2s were fitted with new BAe designed in-flight refuelling probes. From 1985 the MR.2s began to be fitted with wingtip ESM pods, as developed for the R.1, to enhance their surveillance capability. In late 1990 several Nimrod MR.2s were fitted with an underwing FLIR turret under the starboard wing, BOZ pod under the port wing and a Towed Radar Decoy, under the unofficial designation MR.2(GM) – where GM stood for Gulf Mod. Nimrods helped to secure the Arabian Gulf sea lanes during the 1991 Gulf War and returned in 2003 to take part in the liberation of Iraq.

A much less successful variant of the Nimrod was the AEW.3 In 1973 the RAF had begun to examine the options for replacing the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) variant of the Shackleton operated by No.8 Squadron. Boeing offered a variant of the successful E-3A, but the over water performance of its radar was judged to be poor and in March 1977 it was announced that a specialised version of the Nimrod, the AEW. Mk3 would be procured instead. This would be based on the Nimrod airframe but featured a large bulbous radome in the nose and a similar radome in the tail, providing 360 degree radar coverage. A weather radar was located in the starboard external fuel tank and ESM pods fitted on the wing tips. On 28 June 1977 a Comet 4C (XW626) converted to carry the nose radar unit made the first of a series of flight trials. Initial results were promising, and so 3 AEW.3 development aircraft were produced by converting redundant MR.1 airframes to carry the prototype radar equipment. The first flew on 16 July 1980.

While development of the radar electronics, (and the software that controlled it), was proceeding, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) chose to impose a new and more stringent specification on the radar system. Meeting the new requirement meant a lot of redesign and retesting for British Aerospace and GEC, which inevitably delayed the planned in-service date for the aircraft. Nevertheless, in anticipation of a successful outcome of the revised system, a production batch of 8 aircraft was laid down down, using further redundant MR.1 airframes. The first example flew on 9 March 1982. By now the MoD had changed the technical specification several more times. The increased workload of trying to meet a constantly changing requirement with an extremely advanced electronics system which depended on sophisticated hardware and software was now proving to be extremely taxing task, and forecast timescales extended even further into the future. The first interim standard AEW aircraft was delivered to No.8 Sqn in 1984 to allow crew training to commence. At the same time a thorough review of the whole AEW programme was launched to determine whether a reliable and effective system could be produced and put into service. In September 1986 the AEW requirement was reopened to competing bidders and in December of that year the Boeing E-3 Sentry was declared the winner. The Nimrod AEW was immediately cancelled. Unusable AEW airframes were stored at RAF Abingdon until they were scrapped in the 1990s. Poor management by the MoD had doomed a promising programme, despite the best efforts of the systems developers.

In 1993 ASR420 was issued calling for a Replacement Maritime Patrol Aircraft (RPMA) for the RAF. Bids were submitted in 1995 and included a new-build version of the P-3 Orion, upgraded second-hand Orions and from BAe an upgraded version of the Nimrod MR.2 called Nimrod 2000. At the time BAe was rather short of work, and its bid was seen as a relatively low risk update which would be able to use much of the existing Nimrod training and support infrastructure. On 25 July 1996 the RMPA contract was awarded to BAe for the Nimrod 2000. Unfortunately, by this time BAe had also won several other important contracts and the staff and resources available to work on this particular project had become rather limited. With MoD agreement, the necessary work was therefore parcelled up into a number of work packages and subcontracted a number of different partner companies and also split between several different BAe sites including Woodford, Brough and Filton.

The Nimrod 2000 proposal comprised a complete strip-down and zero-life programme for the airframe, new larger wings housing Rolls-Royce BMW BR.710 engines, new radar and sensor systems and new tactical computer system. Boeing was contracted as the avionics systems integrator. In February 1997 the first three stripped-down Nimrod fuselages were delivered to FR Aviation in Bournemouth. Due to the lack of resources at BAe and poor management oversight of the many geographically dispersed work packages, the programme soon began to run late and over budget. In 1999 Rolls-Royce were ready to deliver the first engines, but BAe had no airframes ready to accept them. A programme review in 1999 revealed that work was already running 3 years behind schedule. BAe was forced to renegotiate the contract, incurring a substantial financial penalty in the process. By now, the Nimrod 2000 name had been quietly dropped. The first reburbished airframe was returned to Woodford in January 2000. Incredibly, it took until 2003 for assembly of the first prototype MRA.4 (ZJ516) to be carried out. Unfortunately, when the second set of Airbus-build wings were offered up to the second prototype fuselage, it was found that they didn’t fit. Build tolerances acceptable in the 1960s for the fuselage were too great for the laser-precise tolerances used in the new wing. This problem highlighted BAe management’s fundamental lack of understanding of what it was they were actually trying to achieve. After an interminable amount of time performing system checks, the first prototype MRA.4 took to the air on 26 August 2004 – more than four years late. In September 2004 a round of politically inspired defence cuts resulted in the planned order for MRA.4 being reduced from 18 to ‘about 12’. Delivery of the sixth aircraft is now planned for 2009, with all aircraft likely to be based at RAF Kinloss initially.

The Nimrod MRA.4 is but a crude charicature of the MR.2 that it is intended to replace, exhibiting a complete absence of the elegant blending of form and function which characterised the original 1960s design. In the same vein, the MR.2, which in 1981 was described as the most complex airborne system ever to enter service with the RAF, serves as a model of efficient project managment compared to the inept bungling exhibited by the present generation of project managers. However, despite it’s ugly appearance and late delivery, the updated Nimrod should reclaim it’s crown as the world’s leading maritime patrol aircraft.

MR.1 XV233 shows the original grey-white
colour scheme. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
MR.1 XV245 in a classic pose
(photo, Crown Copyright)


Requirement Specification: ASR381 – MR.Mk 1, ASR389 – R.Mk 1, ASR420 – MRA.Mk 4
Manufacturers Designation: HS.801

Development History:
HS.801 prototypes Two Comet 4Cs converted to act as Nimrod prototypes. Ventral weapons pannier under cabin, search radar in nose, MAD stinger in tail, fin-tip radome, dorsal fin added. 1st prototype (aerodynamic testbed) with RB.163-20 Spey engines, 2nd prototype (electronic testbed) with Avon engines.
Nimrod MR.Mk 1 Initial production version (38 aircraft). ASV-21D search radar, Marconi Elliott 920B central computer.
Nimrod MR.Mk 1 Last 8 production aircraft (second batch) delivered with updated communications system – as later used on MR.Mk 2. Strengthened structure for gross weights of 192,000 lb (87090 kg).
Nimrod R.Mk 1 Specialised ELINT version of MR.Mk 1 with completely new avionics fit. No MAD tailboom, no searchlight. Dielectric radomes in each external wing tank nose, numerous antenna above and below fuselage. Auxiliary fuel tanks in weapons bay. Later fitted with wingtip ESM pods and some cabin windows deleted as additional equipment fitted.
Nimrod R.Mk 1P Designation applied to R.Mk 1 when fitted with in-flight refuelling probe in 1982. Small swept finlets added to tailplane. ‘P’ suffix later dropped.
Nimrod MR.Mk 2 Upgraded Maritime Reconnaissance version. New avionics fit with Thorn EMI Searchwater radar, new GEC central tactical system, new AQS-901 acoustics system, new communications suite. Air scoop on port rear fuselage close to dorsal fin, for avionics cooling system.
Export Nimrod Version of MR.Mk 2 offered to Canada and Australia. Strengthened structure for gross weights of 192,000 lb (87090 kg). Additional fuel tanks in weapons bay. New APU. Provision for Flight Refuelling drogue pod under each wing. Not built.
Nimrod MR.Mk 2P Designation applied to MR.Mk 2 when fitted with in-flight refuelling probe in 1982. Small swept finlets added to tailplane. Wingtip ESM pods subsequently fitted and tailplane finlets enlarged. ‘P’ suffix dropped in late 1990s.
Nimrod MR.Mk 2P(GM) ‘Gulf Mod’ version tailored for use in 1991 Gulf War. Underwing FLIR turret on starboard wing, BOZ pods, Towed Radar Decoy.
Nimrod AEW.Mk 3 Specialised Airborne Early Warning (AEW) version. Conversion of MR.Mk 1 with bulbous radome in nose and tailcone. Weather radar in starboard external fuel tank. ESM pods on wing tips.
Nimrod AEW.Mk 3P Designation applied to AEW.Mk 3 XV263 when fitted with in-flight refuelling probe.
Nimrod MRA.4 Significantly upgraded Maritime Reconnaissance Attack version with new larger wing, larger engine air intakes, BR710 engines, new stronger wider-track undercarriage, large tailplane finlets. Completely new mission system: Searchwater 2000MR radar, UXS503/AQS970 acoustic processor, Nighthunter IR/TV electro-optical turret under nose, EL/L-8300UK ESM suite, DASS self-protection system, advanced communication system. 2-man Airbus-style ‘glass’ cockpit.
MR.1 (note lack of cooling air scoop) XV251
in ‘Hemp’ colours. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
R.1 XW664 of 51 Sqn in 1988 – note ‘hockey
stick’ aerials. (photo, Keith McKenzie)


Key Dates:
July 1963    AST 357 issued, calling for a sophisticated jet aircraft to replace the Shackleton by 1972.
October 1963    Hawker Siddeley submits MR aircraft feasibility study.
April 1964    Hawker Siddeley submits proposal based on HS.800 version of Trident airliner.
4 June 1964    ASR 381 issued, calling for cheaper and more rapid Shackleton replacement.
June 1964    Design of HS.801 based on Comet 4 airliner begins.
July 1964    HS.801 offered to meet ASR 381.
February 1965    Decision to order HS.801 announced.
June 1965    Hawker Siddeley receives Instruction to Proceed (ITP).
January 1966    Fixed price contract placed for 38 Nimrod MR.Mk 1s.
23 May 1967    First flight of Spey-engined prototype (XV148).
31 July 1967    First flight of Avon-engined prototype (XV147).
28 June 1968    Maiden flight of first production Nimrod MR.Mk 1 (XV226).
2 October 1969    First production MR.Mk1 (XV230) delivered to RAF – 236 OCU at St Mawgan.
October 1969    Order placed for 3 R.Mk 1 ELINT versions.
27 Nov 1969    RAF Strike Command absorbs Coastal Command.
October 1970    RAF Kinloss (201 Sqn) begins conversion to Nimrod
7 July 1971    First R.Mk 1 (XW664) delivered to 51 Sqn as an ’empty shell’.
January 1972    Second batch of 8 MR.Mk 1s announced.
1973    Project definition for Nimrod AEW version carried out.
21 October 1973    Flight trials begin of mission-equipped R.Mk 1s.
10 May 1974    51 Sqn formally commissioned with Nimrod R.Mk.1.
1975    Work starts on MR.Mk 2 upgrade
31 March 1977    Nimrod AEW chosen to meet British AEW requirement.
28 June 1977    Converted Comet 4C (XW626) begins AEW radar trials.
13 February 1979    First MR.Mk 2 production conversion first flight (XV236).
23 August 1979    Redelivery of first upgraded MR.Mk 2 to RAF.
1980    Major avionics update for R.Mk 1s carried out.
16 July 1980    First flight of first development AEW.Mk 3 (XZ286).
9 March 1982    First production AEW.Mk 3 first flight.
14 April 1982    Work starts on in-flight refuelling probe installation design for MR.Mk 2.
27 April 1982    First probe equipped MR.Mk 2P flies (XV229).
29 May 1982    First carriage of AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles (XV229).
early 1982    Initial planned Nimrod AEW service entry date.
Spring 1985    ESM wingtip pods introduced to MR.Mk 2.
1985    Upgrade of 35 MR.1 aircraft to MR.2 standard completed.
1984    First AEW aircraft delivered to 8 Sqn for crew training
September 1986    AEW competition reopened by MoD.
December 1986    E-3 Sentry selected as winner, Nimrod AEW.Mk 3 cancelled.
15 May 1995    R.Mk 1 XW666 ditches after catastrophic engine fire.
1993    Request for information for Replacement Maritime Patrol Aircraft (RMPA) to meet ASR 420
April 1994    Installation of ‘Starwindow’ avionics update for R.Mk 1 commences.
1995    Bids submitted for RMPA
25 July 1996    Nimrod 2000 wins RMPA competition
2 December 1996    Fixed price contract awarded to BAE SYSTEMS for Nimrod 2000 development
14 February 1997    First of 3 Nimrod fuselages delivered to FR Aviation at Bournemouth
early 1998    Nimrod 2000 renamed Nimrod MRA.4
late 1998    Nimrod MRA.4 programme reviewed due to poor progress.
1999    Nimrod MRA.4 contract re-negotiated – 3 years slip in delivery to service.
1999    First BR.710-48 engine deliveries for Nimrod MRA.4.
January 2000    First fuselage returned to Woodford.
19 December 2001    Electrical ‘power on’ for first MRA.4.
2002    Initial planned delivery date for MRA.4.
March 2002    Engines installed in first MRA.4.
February 2003    Programe restructured again – further delay to in-service date.
21 July 2004    MRA.4 order reduced to ‘about 12’.
26 August 2004    First flight of MRA.4 first prototype (ZJ516).
15 December 2004    Second prototype (ZJ518) first flight
2009    Current forecast for MRA.4 in-service date.
MR.2 XV254 in 1989 with ESM pods and large
tailplane finlets. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
MR.2 XV230 in the circuit at Kinloss in 2000
(photo, Keith McKenzie)


Military Operators

Royal Air Force MR.Mk 1 – 5 sqns + OCU, R.Mk 1 – 1 sqn, MR.Mk 2 – 4 sqns + OCU, MRA.Mk 4 – 2 sqns planned

Government Agencies

RRE/RSRE* Bedford 1 HS.801 prototype

Civilian Operators

Hawker Siddeley/British Aerospace 3 MR.Mk 1 + 1 HS.801 prototype

* Radar Research Establishment (later Royal Signals & Radar Establishment)

MR.2 XV260 on approach at Kinloss in 120
Sqn markings. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
MR.2 XV241 marked up for the 1989 Fincastle Trophy. (photo, Keith McKenzie)


Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR.Mk.1
Accomodation: 3 flight crew + 9 sensor operators or 45 troops in secondary trooping role
Dimensions: Length 126 ft 9 in (38.63 m); Height 29 ft 8.5 in (9.05 m); Wing Span 114 ft 10 in (35.00 m); Wing Area 2,121 sq ft (197.04 sq m)
Engines: Four Rolls-Royce RB.168-20 Spey Mk 250 turbojets rated at 12,140 lb st (54.00 kN) dry each
Weights: Empty 86,000 lb (39,010 kg); Gross Weight 175,500 lb (79,605 kg); Maximum Take-off 177,500 lb (80,514 kg); Maximum Overload 192,000 lb (87,090 kg)*; Maximum Payload 13,500 lb (6,124 kg)
Performance: Maximum Speed at optimum altitude 500 kts (575 mph, 926 kph); Maximum Cruising Speed (Max Transit Speed) at optimum altitude 475 kts (547 mph, 880 kph); Economical Cruising Speed (Econ Transit Speed) at optimum altitude 425 kts (490 mph, 787 kph); Service ceiling 42,000 ft (12,800 m); Ferry Range 5,000 nm (5,758 miles, 9266 km); Maximum Endurance 15 hours 0 minutes, Typical Endurance 12 hrs 0 minutes.
Armament: Mines, depth charges, Stingray homing torpedoes, bombs in internal weapons bay + 4 optional under-wing pylons for Aerospatiale AS.12 or Martel anti-ship missiles

* With extra fuel in removable bomb-bay tanks.

Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR.Mk.2
Accomodation: 3 flight crew + 9 (later 10) sensor operators or 45 troops in secondary trooping role
Dimensions: Length 126 ft 9 in (38.63 m) excluding probe, 129 ft 1 in (39.34) with IFR probe; Height 29 ft 8.5 in (9.05 m); Wing Span 114 ft 10 in (35.00 m) without ESM pods; Wing Area 2,121 sq ft (197.04 sq m)
Engines: Four Rolls-Royce RB.168-20 Spey Mk 250 turbojets rated at 12,140 lb st (54.00 kN) dry each
Weights: Empty 92,000 lb (41,730 kg); Gross Weight 175,500 lb (79,605 kg); Maximum Take-off 177,500 lb (80,514 kg); Maximum Overload 192,000 lb (87,090 kg)*; Maximum Payload 13,500 lb (6,124 kg)
Performance: Maximum Speed at optimum altitude 500 kts (575 mph, 926 kph); Maximum Cruising Speed (Max Transit Speed) at optimum altitude 475 kts (547 mph, 880 kph); Economical Cruising Speed (Econ Transit Speed) at optimum altitude 425 kts (490 mph, 787 kph); Patrol Speed 200 kts (230 mph, 370 kph) on 2 engines; Service ceiling 42,000 ft (12,800 m); Ferry Range 5,000 nm (5,758 miles, 9266 km); Maximum Endurance 15 hours 0 minutes on internal fuel, Typical Endurance 12 hrs 0 minutes.
Armament: Up to 9 Mk 44 or Mk 46 or Marconi Stingray homing torpedoes, mines, depth charges, 1000 lb (454 kg) bombs in internal weapons bay + 4 optional under wing pylons for 4 AIM-9L Sidewinder air-air missiles or two AGM-84 Harpoon or Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles

* With extra fuel in removable bomb-bay tanks.

Hawker Siddeley Nimrod R.Mk 1 – as for MR.Mk 1 & MR.2 except:
Accomodation: 3 flight crew + up to 28 sensor operators
Dimensions: Length 118 ft 0 in (35.97 m) excluding probe, 119 ft 9 in (36.50 m) over IFR probe
Weights: No published information
Performance: No published information
British Aerospace Nimrod AEW.Mk 3
Accomodation: Four flight crew + tactical team of 6
Dimensions: Length 137 ft 8.5 in (41.97 m); Height 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m); Wing Span 115 ft 1 in (35.08 m); Wing Area 2,121 sq ft (197.05 sq m)
Engines: Four Rolls-Royce RB.168-20 Spey Mk 250 or Mk 251 turbojets rated at 12,140 lb st (54.00 kN) dry
Weights: “Empty 86,000 lb (39,010 kg)”; Maximum Take-off 187,800 lb (85,185 kg)
Performance: Cruising Speed 350 mph (563 kph); Endurance 10+ hours.
Accomodation: Two flight crew + 8 sensor operators
Dimensions: Length 126 ft 9 in (38.63 m); Height 30 ft 6 in (9.29 m); Wing Span 127 ft 0 in (38.71 m); Wing Area 2,538 sq ft (235.8 sq m)
Engines: Four BMW Rolls-Royce BR710-48 turbofans rated at 15,500 lbf (68.97 kN) each
Weights: Basic Empty 112,765 lb (51,150 kg); Maximum Take-off 234,165 lb (106,217 kg); Maximum Payload 12,000+ lb (5,455+ kg)
Performance: Maximum Speed Mach 0.77; Service ceiling 42,000 ft (12,800 m); Range (unrefuelled) 6,000+ nautical miles (6,909 miles, 11,119 km); Endurance 14+ hours.
Armament: Up to 9 Stingray torpedoes, 6 Harpoon anti-ship missiles (4 on wing pylons + 2 in bomb bay) and mines
MR.2 XV252 in 1987 with ESM pods but no
IFR probe. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
Aerodynamic prototype AEW.3 XZ286
(photo, BAE SYSTEMS)


Design Centre

Head of Design Team: (Not known)
Design Offices: Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd*, Chadderton, Greengate, Middleton, Manchester, M24 1SA


Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd*
(Manchester Division, Woodford Aerodrome, Chester Road, Woodford, Cheshire, FK7 1QR)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
HS.801 prototypes (2 conv.) Chester 1964-July 1967
Nimrod MR.1 38 Woodford 1967-Aug 1972
Nimrod R.1 3 Woodford 1970-1973
Nimrod MR.1 8 Woodford 1973-1975
Nimrod MR.2 (35 conv.) Woodford 1978-mid 1984
Nimrod AEW.3 (11 conv.) Woodford 1979-1984
Nimrod R.1 (1 conv.) Woodford Oct 1995-Dec 1996
Nimrod MRA.4 (12 conv.) Woodford Feb 1997-2012
Total: 49    

* later British Aerospace, then BAE SYSTEMS.

Total Produced: 49 a/c (all variants)
(MRA.4: Wings built by Airbus UK at Broughton, Flintshire – formerly the Hawker Siddeley Chester factory)

Production List

* Comet & Nimrod production list

First prototype MRA.4 ZJ516 being prepared
for flight testing. (photo, BAE SYSTEMS)
ZJ516 makes it’s first flight – note enlarged
engine intakes. (photo, BAE SYSTEMS)

More Information


‘British Aerospace Nimrod – Modern Combat Aircraft No.24’
by John Chartres
Ian Allan, UK, April 1986   ISBN: 0711015759
* Complete history of the Nimrod up until 1985.

‘The Comet and Nimrod – Images of Aviation’ [Order this book from UK]
by Ray Williams
Tempus Publishing, UK, August 2000    ISBN: 0752417525
* Concise pictorial history of the Comet and Nimrod in well captioned b+w photos.


Air Enthusiast December 1973
* Nimrod MR.1 feature article
Air International March 1978
* Nimrod AEW.3 feature article
Air International August 1980
* Nimrod AEW.3 update article
Air International July 1981
* Nimrod MR.2 feature article
Air International April 1983
* Nimrod in Falklands War feature article
Air International July 2001
* Nimrod R.1 feature article
Air International July 2002
* Nimrod MRA.4 feature article
Air Forces Monthly October 2004
* Nimrod at war feature article

* 16 pages of excellent Nimrod photos

The Martin Painter DH106 Comet web site
* includes Nimrod information

Spyflight BAe Nimrod R Mk 1
* Good detailed account of the R.1

Spyflight BAe Nimrod AEW 3
* Excellent critical summary of the AEW.3 story

Spyflight BAe Nimrod MRA4
* Well written summary of the MRA.4 story to 2003

Target Lock British Aerospace Nimrod
* Good profile of the Nimrod

British Aerospace Nimrod R1
* RAF Waddington Nimrod R.Mk 1 photos

Defence Projects Nimrod MRA4
* Official MoD data on the MRA.4

BAE Nimrod
* Wikipedia entry for the Nimrod

Defence Procurement Agency – Nimrod Web Site
* Useful programme data on the MRA.4 – horrible website navigation

Nimrod ‘The Mighty Hunter’
* RAF Kinloss: Very good history of the MR.2


Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
To be added.


‘Nimrod – A tribute to the first jet powered sub hunter killer’ [Order this video from UK]
Catalogue Number: 82586
* History of the Nimrod up until 1986.
‘Hawker Siddeley Nimrod’ [Order this video from UK]
Castle Home Video  Catalogue Number: CHV2183
* History of the Nimrod up until 1994.

2 thoughts on “BAE Systems Nimrod

  1. Very informative and well presented,good aircraft breakdowns of all marks of Nimrods, such a loss of a good aircraft. As i read in a recent magazine the comment was thus………..”It dosen”t leave a hole- it dents the depth of our capabilities” This was reffering to the Nimrod R1…….the last to fly and to grace our skies.

  2. Correction: The Nimrod AEW Mk3 was never delivered to 8 Sqn. However, a number were delivered to a Joint Trials Unit (JTU) established at RAF Waddington. (It was Joint MOD(PE) and RAF).

    After numerous A&AEE Boscombe Down trials were flown out of BAe Woodford in 1983 and the latter part of 1984. The JTU was established at RAF Waddington with the arrival of P1 (XZ285) in December 1984. The aim was to subject the aircraft to formal RAF servicing and engineering practices in the hope that these would result in increased availability, reliability and maintainability. Sadly, this was not to be the case.

    It was an ambitious project – from the project being given the green light in 1977 to the planned In Service Date of 1982 was pure wishful thinking by the MOD for such a complex system.

    The Mission System Avionics (MSA) comprised some 330 Line Replaceable Units (LRUs). A very senior officer stated in 1981 before an incredulous audience that “all the LRUs have been bench tested and they all work. All we have to do is to integrate them”.

    And – to cap it all – the project was described as “austere” (code for cheap) by that same officer.

    Elements of the system worked well – but there were many deep-seated issues (esp radar performance and data handling) that could only be solved by re-design and there was no political will or money for that.

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