BAE Systems is to receive a non-competitive contract to develop and implement an in-service support system for the Royal Air Force's future fleet of Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft.

To be placed on 31 January, the deal will be worth between an initial £20 million ($29.1 million) and £100 million, according to a contract notice issued by the UK Defence Equipment and Support organisation on 14 January. The company says the deal is the latest in a sequence of awards intended to prepare the MRA4 for its entry into service, and adds that it hopes to subsequently agree a full through-life support arrangement for the type with the UK Ministry of Defence.

BAE already holds a long-term integrated support contract for the UK's current Nimrod MR2 fleet and Nimrod R1 electronic intelligence aircraft, respectively based at RAF Kinloss in Scotland and Waddington in Lincolnshire. Signed in mid-2006, its current deal will cover operations of 16 MR2s and three R1s until March 2011.

The MoD has contracted BAE to deliver nine production MRA4s, with the type now expected to meet a delayed in-service date in December 2010, more than seven years behind its original schedule.

BAE's three MRA4 development aircraft (one pictured below) are meanwhile being considered as potential replacements for the Nimrod R1s, alongside options to acquire Boeing 707-based RC-135 Rivet Joints from the USA or to upgrade the current R1 airframes.

 © BAE Systems

Source: Flight International