UK considers alternatives to Nimrod R.1 upgrade
18 January 2008
By Tim Ripley
Safety concerns have prompted moves to significantly reorganise UK plans to upgrade Royal Air Force (RAF) British Aerospace Nimrod R.1 electronic intelligence (ELINT)-gathering aircraft and to start efforts to find an alternative platform.
The loss of a RAF Nimrod MR.2 maritime patrol aircraft - which has the same airframe as the R.1 variant - in a mid-air fire over Afghanistan in September 2006 was subsequently linked by investigators to safety problems with the aircraft's fuel systems. Jane's understands that this has forced the UK to think again about the GBP400 million (USD786 million) Project Helix to sustain the three-strong Nimrod R.1 fleet in service until 2025.
UK military sources have told Jane's that alternative platforms are now being considered and proposals have been made in the current defence spending round to secure additional funding to allow the Helix mission system to be installed in a different airframe.
Following a competition against Lockheed Martin, US company L-3 Communications was selected in April 2007 to upgrade the Nimrod R.1s and was awarded a GBP11 million assessment contract by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
In a tightly worded statement an MoD spokeswoman moved away from the commitment to upgrade the R.1s. She told Jane's that the MoD was "currently assessing a range of options and it is too early to get into details.
Image: Nimrod R.1s are undergoing the assessment phase of a potential upgrade (RAF)