Nimrod lands in hostile territory

BAE Systems’ Nimrod MRA4 development aircraft PA2 is pictured here undergoing environmental trials at -400C at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin US Air Force Base in Florida.

BAE Systems’ Nimrod MRA4 development aircraft PA2 is pictured below undergoing environmental trials at -40oC at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin US Air Force Base in Florida.

Having spent about 10 days at temperatures down to -40oC, the test team then went to another extreme, operating in heat up to +44oC and relative humidity of 100 per cent.

The McKinley Climate Laboratory Main Test Chamber is the largest facility of its kind in the world. The environmental trials at Eglin AFB are a major milestone on the way to proving the maturity of the Nimrod design and establishing the final production design of the aircraft by the end of the year.

The Nimrod MRA4 was exposed to the sustained extreme temperatures to ensure its capability for worldwide use. The tests focussed on systems most affected by weather, such as the hydraulics and electrics.

The engines were running throughout most of the test period, to simulate normal operating conditions.

The 45-strong team of testers comprised BAE’s own’ engineers and partners, including the RAF, Qinetiq, the Defence Quality Assurance Group (DQAM) and the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA). The next step is to analyse the data and compile the results.

Following a short test flight, the Nimrod will leave Florida on 15 November to fly back to the UK via the Azores, its first transatlantic flight.

The new Nimrod MRA4 is set to provide the UK with at least 30 years of service for maritime reconnaissance and attack operations with a high-tech mission system.

The aircraft will give the UK’s Royal Air Force an increased range of 6,000 miles and 14 hours loiter time without refuelling — a significant increase over the capabilities of the current Nimrod MR2.

In July this year, defence secretary Des Browne announced that the government had signed a production contract with BAE Systems for a 12-aircraft fleet of the next-generation Nimrod.