The world’s first jet airliner, the Comet, was converted to fight submarines. The result was the Nimrod. We spoke to Squadron Leader Stuart ‘Roxy‘ Roxburgh about flying the famous Nimrod for the Royal Air Force.
Describe the Nimrod in three words…
The Mighty Hunter
What is the hardest thing about the Nimrod maritime role?
Lots of relative quiet, followed by frenzied activity on the detection of a submarine
What were its primary duties and well suited was it for these missions?
Anti Submarine Warfare; Anti Surface Unit Warfare; Search and Rescue
The Nimrod was quite well suited for its task – particularly during its time in Service. Although it was the development of an airliner (the Comet) it had a good sensor suite (radar, acoustics, electronic surveillance and communications) especially at the end of its life. It had a massive bomb bay (9 x Stingray torpedos or 2 x Harpoon Anti Ship Missiles) or Search and Rescue equipment, reasonable speed and, particularly with air-to-air refuelling, great range. Finally, the crews were fantastic!
How good was the MR2 and how did it compare to rival aircraft?
Great! I can’t really compare it to our competitors; however, we regularly held our own in routine competitions and exercises with our Allies.
How do you catch a submarine and is it easy?
Not particularly easy: the oceans are vast. How we look for, and hopefully find them depends on what type and task they have; however, we used a range of above the water sensors – radar and electronic surveillance measures – and below the water sensors – active and passive sonobuoys.
MRA4, what was it?
The Nimrod MRA4 was the last development of the Nimrod MPA. It had updated sensor suite, more modern engines and could carry more fuel and weaponry.
Why was it cancelled and should it have been?
The government of the day wanted to save money. The project was late and over budget (not that unusual, to be fair) and it was cancelled. It’s probably too early to tell if that decision was correct.
What were your impressions of the MRA4?
I was only part of the programme for a short time. It had teething trouble – what new project doesn’t? However, the sensor suite was good and I’m sure that we would have made the best of it.
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Tell me something I don’t know about the Nimrod?
The procedure for opening the bomb doors was based on the Second World War Sunderland long range maritime patrol aircraft.
What was your most notable mission?
I’ve had a fair few notable missions – not all I can talk about! I flew the last Nimrod MR2 sortie when XV229 left RAF Kinloss for Manston in Kent on 26 May 2010; that was quite an emotional sortie. I flew a SAR sortie in support of the MV Christinaki which sank with all hands on 3 Feb 1994 in a Force 10 gale; we remained on task for as long as possible – dropping all our dinghies to what we thought may be survivors in the water. We didn’t have enough fuel to get home, so we landed in Eire. They’re not used to British military personnel there and things were a little tense until they discovered our mission – we were on the BBC News. We were well looked after following that. I’ve also had some good ASW sorties: it’s good when you have tracked an adversary (or an ally) for a whole sortie and handed the contact to your relief.
What were the best and worst things about the Nimrod?
Best – the crews.
Worst – crewing in at 2000 on a Friday on a Bank Holiday weekend!
Do you miss flying it? How did you feel about its retirement?
A little; but I’m now flying its replacement! It served the country well for over 40 years!
What equipment did it lack?
Not much for its time; however, the more modern MPA have access to better comms and much more computing power.
What should I have asked you?
Why do they call orange jam marmalade?
How does the Nimrod compare with the Poseidon?
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