Douglas Barrie/WARTON

BRITISH AEROSPACE HAS submitted an option to build new Nimrod 2000s in support of its bid to meet the Royal Air Force's replacement maritime-patrol-aircraft requirement.

With its offer, BAe hopes to overcome possible RAF concerns over the attrition rate of its maritime patrol aircraft if it selected the Nimrod option.

BAe is proposing, to remanufacture 25 of the RAF's existing, 31 Nimrod airframes. Three airframes are Nimrod Rs, dedicated to the electronic-intelligence role.

Graham Chisnall, BAe Nimrod 2000 programme manager, says that the new-build submission provides a "comfort factor to the Ministry of Defence".

The RAF lost two Nimrods in 1995. The maritime-patrol aircraft has a required minimum service life of 25 years to meet Staff Requirement (Air) 420, and BAe wants to assure the RAF that it can cope with any eventuality concerning the attrition rate.

Chisnall says: "We looked at the viability of a new production line for the Nimrod 2000." Given the changes to the airframe for the refurbishment proposal, only the pressure hull and outer wing would additionally have to be new-build.

Meanwhile, BAe has yet to determine finally its preferred engine selection for the aircraft. After initially opting for the BMW/Rolls-Royce BR710 turbofan, it entered discussions with General Electric when the US firm unveiled a growth variant of its CF34.

Chisnall says: "We can have a competition, so we are having one...We can maximise the benefit to the Ministry of Defence."

BAe is now going through the best and final offers from both engine manufacturers. A decision on the engine is expected by the end of April.

*BAe has had preliminary talks over the availability of a handful of upgraded Nimrod 2000s with the South African Air Force.

Source: Flight International