AT 1000am local time on Tuesday July 12, 2011 Nimrod R1 XW664 rolled down the runway at RAF Waddington at the start of the last ever flight of a type that saw its genesis at the dawn of the jet-age.
So, that’s it. The Nimrod, a development of the world’s first jet-airliner, De Havilland’s Comet, is no more. Or at least it will grace the skies no more. At the end of last year in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) the government announced the cancellation of Nimrod MRA4 and the retirement of Nimrod R1. Controversy surrounded the latter following the tragic loss of a Maritime Reconnaissance version over Afghanistan and the former was considered to be too expensive in today’s straitened times. Then there was the Arab Spring and the conflict in Libya. Suddenly, notwithstanding SDSR, Nimrod R1 wasn’t quite so expendable as it had at first seemed to be and it was given leave to continue in service for a few weeks at a time. But yesterday, after the final withdrawal from service at the end of June, a career which lasted longer than that of many who flew in it ended with a positioning flight to East Midlands Airport from RAF Waddington, the last base of the type. Its new home is at the East Midlands Aeropark adjoining the airport; the only other Nimrod R1 to be preserved, XV249, will be dismantled and taken by road to the RAF Musuem at Cosford. It is testimony to the value of the type that the RAF will have nothing like it in terms of capability until the American RC-135 Rivet Joint is introduced into service in three years’ time.