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Hawker Siddeley Nimrod


The British Government needed a new maritime patrol aircraft. It issued a requirement on June 4, 1964. Hawker Siddeley used two modified De Havilland 106 Comet 4C airframes to develop their HS801 prototypes. The first Hawker Siddeley HS801 flight was on May 24, 1967. A version was developed for Signals Intelligence (SIGINT).[i] The first Nimrod entered service on October 2, 1969. Hawker Siddeley and later BAE Systems produced 49 production Nimrods. The RAF retired the Nimrod on June 28, 2011.

[i] BAE Systems, Hawker Siddeley Nimrod,, last accessed 6/11/22.

In Service

Nimrod MR1s entered Royal Air Force (RAF) service in October 1969. They served in the maritime patrol and search and rescue roles. SIGINT versions of the Nimrod, the R1, entered service in 1974. From August 1979 35 MR1s re-entered service as MR2s.[i]

On November 17, 1980 multiple bird strikes brought down a Nimrod MR.2. The crash killed the two pilots, Flight Lieutenant Noel Anthony Royal Australian Air Force and Flying Officer Steve Belcher, RAF. Their action in making a controlled crash landing saved the lives of the other 18 crew members. Flt. Lt. Anthony was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross. Flying Officer Belcher was posthumously awarded the Queens Commendation for Valuable Service.[ii] The aircraft, registration XV256, was a total loss.[iii]

When Argentina captured the Falkland Islands the RAF carried out a crash program of fitting some Nimrods with air-air refueling equipment. They also had to train Nimrod crew members to carry out this difficult operation. This enabled Nimrods to fly the 4,400 kilometers (2,750 miles) from Ascension Island to the Falklands and carry out patrols to cover the British task force. A No. 206 Squadron Nimrod flew the first Falkland campaign mission on May 11, 1982. On May 15, cloud cover made satellite reconnaissance unable to verify if Argentine warships had slipped past the Royal Navy blockade. Wing Commander David Emmerson, Nimrod detachment commander, flew a Nimrod to 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Port Stanley then flew to 100 kilometers (60 miles) off the Argentine coast. Wing Commander Emmerson flew parallel to the Argentine coast past all the Argentine Navy bases. This patrol mission was carried out in daylight and well within the range of Argentine fighters. The Nimrod crew searched 640,000 square kilometers (400,000 square miles). The mission lasted 19 hours and 5 minutes. [iv] Nimrods confirmed the Argentine Navy surface ships were not going to interfere with the British landings on The Falklands.

On June 3, 1984 a load flare igniting in the bomb bay caused extensive damage to Nimrod MR2, registration XV257. The pilot made an emergency landing within four minutes of the fire warning.[v] XV257 underwent repairs for over a year. Then it was flown by a volunteer crew to RAF Woodford. XV257 had no bomb bay doors and the flight was with the landing gear down. XV257 was scheduled for rebuilding but a heavy wind collapsed a hanger roof That destroyed the Nimrod.[vi]

A mechanical failure in an engine caused a fire in XW666, a Nimrod R1, on May 16, 1995. The pilot had to ditch the aircraft into Moray Firth. All on board survived. Another Nimrod, XV239 crashed on September 2 during an airshow. The pilot made a display maneuver that put the aircraft in an unrecoverable stall. The crash killed all seven crew members.[vii]

After Operation Granby, Desert Storm in the U.S. Military, Nimrods flew Northern Watch missions. In Bosnia Nimrods of the Kinloss Wing and 51 Squadron flew missions in August-September 1995. Nimrods also flew missions during the Kosovo operation and over Somalia.

Nimrod operations over Afghanistan began on October 9, 2001 when two RAF Nimrod R1s flew reconnaissance missions. Nimrods flew Operation Telic, Iraqi Freedom in the U.S. Military, missions. 51 Squadron earned the Battle Honor IRAQ 2003 with right to emblazon. On December 22, 2003 a Nimrod supported an operation that captured two drug smuggling dhows.

On September 2, 2006 a Nimrod caught fire and exploded shortly after an air-to-air refueling near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The explosion killed all 14 crewmembers.[viii]

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In June 2007 Nimrods flew missions to access the impact of Cyclone Gonu. The last flight for a Nimrod took place on March 31, 2010.

[i] This is What Made The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod The Ultimate Maritime Recon Aircraft,, last accessed 6/12/22.

[ii] Tragic Nimrod XV256 crash at RAF Kinloss recalled at Moray museum Morayvia, Tragic Nimrod XV256 crash at RAF Kinloss recalled at Moray museum Morayvia – Lord Lieutenant of Moray ( last accessed 6/15/22.

[iii] Aviation, ASN Aircraft accident British Aerospace Nimrod MR.2 XV256 Forres-Kinloss RAF Station (FSS) (, last accessed 6/15/22.

[iv] Air War South Atlantic by Jeffrey Ethell & Alfred Price © 1983 by Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd.

[v] Global, Nimrod Losses, Nimrod Losses (, last accessed 6/17/21.

[vi], XV257 MR2 Nimrod Fire, 1984 by Andyglym January 21, 2018, Aviation - XV257 MR2 Nimrod Fire, 1984 | BMW Z1 Z4 Z8 Z3 Forum and Technical Database -, last accessed 6/27/22.

[vii], Nimrod Losses (, last accessed 6/29/22.

[viii], Fourteen personnel in Afghanistan Nimrod crash named - Fatality notice - GOV.UK (, last accessed 7/2/22.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Robert Sacchi

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