The RAF’s fleet of 11 Nimrod surveillance aircraft, one of which catastrophically burst into flames, killing 14 servicemen in Afghanistan in 2006, is to be withdrawn from service by March as part of a range of defence cuts announced yesterday. Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, denied that the decision to axe the Nimrod Mark 2s a year earlier than planned had anything to do with the crash of Nimrod XV230, which was caused by leaking fuel, and he insisted that it was still safe to fly. He told the Commons that the decision was purely for financial reasons.
He said that the decision was unconnected to the devastatingly critical official report published in October by Charles Haddon-Cave, QC, who accused the Ministry of Defence of sacrificing safety to save money on maintenance of the Nimrod fleet. Several senior military officers were criticised in his report.
Mr Ainsworth also announced that the programme to introduce a replacement, the Nimrod MRA4, was going to be delayed.
With the Mark 2s scrapped by the end of March, this will leave a capability gap, defence sources confirmed.
The first MRA4, one of nine ordered, will be delivered to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire, home of the Nimrods, in February but it will not be operational for a long time because the crews will have to carry out lengthy flight training. “It is a brand new aircraft, so it will take time,” a defence official said.
Very tough decisions are being made by the UK forces.
[Edited 2009-12-16 14:24:57]