PICTURE: RAF's first Nimrod MRA4 makes flight debut

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BAE Systems' first production example of the Nimrod MRA4 surveillance aircraft has made its flight debut, 13 years after the type was selected for service with the UK Royal Air Force.

Aircraft PA4 performed a 1h 40min first flight from BAE's Woodford site in Cheshire on 10 September, before landing at Norwich airport, where it will be painted in RAF colours. The aircraft will then be flown to BAE's Warton site in Lancashire for pre-delivery flight tests.

 
© BAE Systems
The aircraft is the first of nine on order for the RAF

PA4 follows three earlier development aircraft that are now close to completing their planned test activities. "We're just one flight away from completing the test flying needed to provide the initial clearance that will allow the RAF to operate the aircraft," says Steve Timms, BAE's managing director Nimrod.

BAE will deliver four of the nine MRA4s under contract to RAF Kinloss in Scotland before the type achieves initial operational capability in December 2010. Operations with the RAF's current Nimrod MR2s will cease by 31 March 2011.