UK accepts first Nimrod MRA4 to support training

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The UK Ministry of Defence has declared the Royal Air Force's first BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft ready to support training activities, just three weeks before the service's remaining Nimrod MR2s will be retired.

Marked at BAE's Woodford manufacturing site in Cheshire on 10 March, the milestone clears the way for the formal delivery of aircraft PA4, the first of nine MRA4s on order. The achievement follows "a demanding series of acceptance tests", the company says.

 
© BAE Systems
Ready for training use: the RAF's first Nimrod MRA4 leaves Woodford

"RAF aircrew can begin training, further develop the capability of the MRA4 and fully evaluate how best to use the impressive range of systems this aircraft offers," says Steve Timms, BAE's managing director for large aircraft.

A so-called "convex" training programme for a cadre of future instructors will start shortly at the manufacturer's Warton site in Lancashire. The first MRA4 should arrive at RAF Kinloss in Scotland "in late summer, once an initial release to service and a support contract are in place", it adds.

The RAF's second production aircraft, PA5, made its first flight from Woodford early this month and will enter the acceptance process soon. "The remaining seven production aircraft are all in build and will be delivered on schedule," BAE says.

 
© BAE Systems
Aircraft PA5 was flown to Manchester airport for painting

The future fleet will include aircraft PA10, which was flown as MRA4 development aircraft PA3 until 2008. It logged 64 flight hours from a combined total of almost 1,900h and 628 sorties flown by a three-strong development fleet.

BAE earlier this month retired its remaining two development aircraft, with these to be stored at Woodford "pending a decision on their future".