The UK Royal Air Force has launched a training course for the first instructors who will prepare crews to fly its new fleet of BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.

Being delivered at RAF Kinloss in Scotland by the service's 42 Sqn Operational Conversion Unit, the six-month course will prepare an initial cadre of 24 pilots, weapons systems officers and weapons systems operators.

The bulk of these will take instructor posts, while the remainder will be the lead officers on 201 Sqn, the first operational unit to field the MRA4.

The RAF flew its last operational sortie with a Nimrod MR2 last March, after the type's retirement had been brought forward by one year. Its replacement MRA4 fleet should achieve initial operating capability in 2012, and eventually total nine aircraft.

 Nimrod MRA4 PA4 - BAE Systems
© BAE Systems

BAE earlier this year conducted a so-called "convex" training course at its Warton site in Lancashire for the RAF's first four MRA4 pilots.

Speaking at last month's Farnborough air show, chief of the air staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton rebutted recent media reports that suggested the RAF had offered to cancel the Nimrod MRA4 project as part of the UK's ongoing Strategic Defence and Security Review process.

"We are definitely not offering up the MRA4," he said, defending its maritime patrol mission, and also describing the aircraft as having the potential to be "at the centre" of its long-term combat intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance fleet.

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Source: Flight International