Page last updated at 10:43 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Fact file: Nimrod MR2

A pair of Nimrod MR2s in formation

The Nimrod was designed as a sea patrol and anti-submarine aircraft and entered service with the Royal Air Force in the UK over 30 years ago.

Its design is based on the de Havilland Comet, the first commercial jet airliner, with four jet engines integrated into the wings next to the fuselage.

In the early 1980s some RAF Nimrods were upgraded from the original MR1 design to the MR2, the main roles of which are sea surveillance, anti-submarine warfare and support for search and rescue operations.

17 November 1980: Bird strike at Roseisle Forest, near Kinloss, Scotland
3 June 1984: Fire on board at St Mawgan, Cornwall
16 May 1995: Engine fire at Lossiemouth, Scotland
2 September 1995: Crash at Toronto Air Show, Canada
2 September 2006: Crash near Kandahar, Afghanistan

Apart from the 1982 Falklands War, Nimrods served in both the 1990 and 2003 Gulf wars and helped enforce Nato's maritime blockade of the Balkans in 2001.

Increasingly since the operations in Kosovo at the end of the 1990s the Nimrod MR2 had been used overland.

"It has been very successful in that, particularly in Afghanistan, because it has a very sophisticated communications equipment on board," said defence analyst Paul Beaver.

The Nimrod is able to act as rebroadcasting centre, suitable for use over the rough hilly terrain of Afghanistan.

It can act as a large radio system that can pick up messages from troops on the ground and relay them. It is also able to scan the ground and send real time video back to commanders at base.

A Nimrod MR2 in flight
Crew - 13
Main equipment - Sonobuoys, radar, magnetic and acoustic detection equipment, torpedoes, bombs, depth charges, Sidewinder self-defence missiles
Max speed - 575mph (925 kph)
Length - 126ft 9in (38.63m)
Height - 29ft 8.5in (9m)
Wingspan - 114ft 10in (35m)
Powerplant - Four Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans
Source: RAF

During the Cold War the Nimrod's main role was monitoring Soviet submarines and surface ships in the Baltic, North Atlantic and beyond.

In 1988 they supported rescue work after the Piper Alpha oil rig fire.

One the aircraft's greatest assets is flight range - even without refuelling it can remain airborne for 10 hours with an operating range of 3,800 miles (6,080 km). It has a top speed of 575 mph (925 kph).

Capable of carrying 25 people, the crew normally consists of two pilots and a flight engineer on the flight deck, two navigators, an air electronics officer (with overall responsibility for sensors and communications), three operators of search and listening detectors and four avionics and weapon system operators.

Nimrod MR2s fly mainly from RAF Kinloss in Scotland, although a programme to replace them with an up-dated version - the MRA4 - is under way.

It does not tend to act as a bomber aircraft although the latest version will have the ability to carry a range of weapons from its bomb bay.

All Nimrods were grounded by the Ministry of Defence as of 31 March 2009 pending a vital safety modification.

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