Today, 31 March, sees the end of RAF Nimrod MR
.2 operations and a 2 year 'capability gap' (Capability chasm?) prior to Nimrod MRA.4 operations in 2012.
Though other systems have taken on the role in Afghanistan, UAV's, Sentinel R.1's, Sea King ASc.7's, there will be for 24 months no means to conduct long range maritime patrol ops around the UK coasts and it's busy shipping lanes.
The RAF will use C-130's (already heavily used in the transport role) and Merlin helicopters operated by the RN
, the latter for ASW the formed for SAR support.
These Herks are not fitted out like US Coast Guard examples though, so they are banking on no major maritime incidents where the Nimrod has been so vital in it's 40 year life.
The retirement was brought forward a year and the MRA.4 introduction put back 12 months, to save money, (just after £16 million was spent of the Nimrod safety mods after the example was lost in Afghanistan in 2006).
Not quite the end of the Nimrod legacy airframe story though, the R.1 ELINT aircraft have another year before they are retired, before a 36 month gap whilst the RAF's own Rivet Joint examples are prepared, with (presumably) a similar standard of equipment fit and CFM-56 engines.
This gap will be, it is said, filled by RAF personnel on USAF
examples, with 'operational sovereignty' (I doubt it, nothing against the USAF
but in this instance it is their aircraft for those 3 years).
Not a good day.
There is having priority on Afghanistan, understandably, but this should only be taken so far.
Mind you, had the top brass of the RAF been smarter, they could have used the recent diplomatic row with Argentina, to base some Nimrods down in the Falklands, thus requiring a Nimrod MR
.2 presence to be retained at home too.
Too busy trying to get other services programs cancelled maybe?