back to article Antique Nimrod subhunters scrapped – THANK GOODNESS!

The UK press is bursting with indignation today as the process of scrapping the Nimrod MRA4 submarine-hunting aircraft begins. But in fact the four planes now being broken up were a financial and engineering disaster. Had they gone into service they would have become a terrible, cripplingly expensive millstone around the neck of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Don't celebrate too quickly

    The MOD is bringing six squadrons of Sopwith Camels out of a museum to replace them. Just as soon as they can figure out how to retrofit wings made from purest unobtanium.

    1. N2

      Sopwith Camel

      Probably a better aircraft

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Sopwith Camel

        ✓ Easier to repair

        ✓ Cheaper to buy

        ✓ Cheaper to fly

    2. Davey1000

      Antique Machinery

      Don't forget that the then new all-singing all-dancing Bismarck battleship was crippled by obsolete Fairey Swordfish torpedo planes and that in many cases "obsolete" things work better and last longer than their modern replacements. As to the alleged cost savings obtained by scrapping military hardware, I fear that we are once again seeing an outbreak of grocers shop economics. In my own lifetime I have seen the railways cut to the bone, the cotton industry destroyed and also heavy industries such as coal-mining, steel-making and ship building smashed. Even railway rails now come from France! Does the government really think that all the people thrown onto the scrapheap can become hamburger flippers? Perhaps the new philosophy is to let redundant people become burglars and to just give them a caution if they are caught. This method avoids the cost of prisons and transfers the cost of support onto Joe Public instead of central government.

      1. asdf

        price of jobs

        If you figure what a boon doggle project like this costs compared to the number of jobs it produces even indirectly you would be hard pressed to think of anything even remotely as expensive per job. Take it from us Yanks defense spending is a very poor way to create jobs and is instead of a much better way to channel slush funds to the top executives of offense companies such as Boeing as well as the very large institutional shareholders and hedge funds.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coach-built not the same as bodging

    Though not an efficient use of the workforce either but then things were done differently in the old days.

    1. Anton Ivanov


      The problem is not that they were coach built. Coach built stuff got us into space, to the moon and to the bottom of the Mariana trench.

      It is trying to augment coach-built stuff with modern ITIL/PRINCE2/LEAN/IS200x managed production methods which was a problem here. If they did the "augmentation" using the same methods as those used to build them they would have long been back in the air.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      ^ This

      As someone who has hand-built parts for the mighty hunter in a previous career, I can assure you that the guys that put them together and those that (until recently) kept them together are far from 'bodgers'. Only five major incidents in 50 years flying is a safety record that very few aircraft can match. The sneering tone of the article is distasteful to put it mildly.

      The tech on board was old school, but it regularly pissed all over American equivalents on joint exercises. Not bad for a bunch of valves, tin foil and hairy string.

      The old girl may not have a place in the modern battlespace, but there's no need to kick her in the arse on the way out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        and ?

        Yes you have to take the fack that Lewis is Navy and as such has a +4 hate bonus vs the RAF. But this aside these things are stupid.

        Why they didn't take a modern airliner and upgrade them instead I don't know.

        1. Dave 15

          Why not a modern airliner?

          This WAS a modern airliner when things were started. It also happens that this is a reliable airframe, a robust airframe and totally capable of satisfying the requirements on it. To restart based on another airframe at this stage would be entirely stupid. What are you going to do? Abandon every surveilance aircraft the minute airbus/boeing announce something new? No. Look at the yanky spy aircraft - its hardly the most upto date airframe either.

          1. ideapete

            There is one

            Poseidon P-8A build on the 737 airframe / bulk discounts for our limey friends starting at $125M

            1. cmaurand

              The P8A still isn't as good as the old P3

              The old P3 (turbo prop) did exactly has it needed. It flew low and slow. It could stay in the air for 14 hours without refueling and, above all, it's quiet. It seems to me that quiet is necessary when you're hunting subs. The P3 did most of its patrolling on 2 of its 4 engines increasing its range and time on station. the P8A is an expensive piece of sh__.

              1. ideapete

                Totally true

                But its got an American flag ( soon to be Chinese ) on it so its gotta be great right

          2. Scorchio!!

            Re: Why not a modern airliner?

            26 October 1952: BOAC Comet 1 G-ALYZ crashed on takeoff from Rome-Ciampino Airport, Italy.

            3 March 1953: Canadian Pacific Airlines Comet 1 CF-CUN stalled on takeoff at Karachi, Pakistan.

            2 May 1953: BOAC Comet 1 G-ALYV crashed at Calcutta, India.

            25 June 1953: Union Aeromaritime de Transport Comet 1 F-BGSC skidded off a runway at Dakar, Senegal, damaged beyond repair.

            15 July 1953: A BOAC Comet landed at Juhu Aerodrome instead of Santacruz Airport, Bombay. The aircraft was flown out some nine days later.[132]

            10 January 1954: BOAC Flight 781 Comet 1 G-ALYP crashed into the sea south of Elba, Italy.

            8 April 1954: BOAC (operating a charter as South African Airways Flight 201) Comet 1 G-ALYY crashed into the sea north of Stromboli, Italy.

            13 September 1957: No. 192 Squadron RAF Comet 2R XK663 damaged beyond repair in a hangar fire.

            27 August 1959: Aerolíneas Argentinas Comet 4 LV-AHP flew into a mountain on approach to Asunción, Paraguay.

            20 February 1960: Aerolíneas Argentinas Comet 4 LV-AHO was damaged beyond repair in a heavy landing at Buenos Aries-Ezeiza, Argentina.

            23 November 1961: Aerolíneas Argentinas Comet 4 LV-AHR Flight 322 hit a tree on takeoff at São Paulo, Brazil.

            21 December 1961: British European Airways Comet 4 G-ARJM crashed on takeoff from Ankara, Turkey.

            19 July 1962: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-AMW crashed into a mountain 100 km northeast of Bangkok, Thailand.

            20 March 1963: Saudi Arabian Government Comet 4C SA-R-7 crashed in the Italian Alps near Cuneo.

            28 July 1963: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-ALD Flight 896 crashed into the sea near Bombay, India.

            22 March 1964: Comet 4 G-APDK on lease to Malaysian Airlines, was damaged beyond repair landing at Singapore.

            12 October 1967: British European Airways Comet 4 G-ARCO damaged by an inflight bomb explosion, crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Turkey.

            28 December 1968: Middle East Airlines Comet 4Cs OD-ADQ and OD-ADR both destroyed by Israeli troops in an attack at Beirut, Lebanon.

            14 January 1970: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-ANI crashed at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

            9 February 1970: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-ALE crashed after takeoff near Munich, West Germany.

            3 July 1970: Dan-Air Comet 4 G-APDN flew into the Monteseny mountains, northwest of Barcelona, Spain.

            7 October 1970: Dan-Air Comet 4 G-APDL damaged beyond repair after a wheels up landing at Newcastle Airport, England.

            12 October 1967: British European Airways Comet 4B G-ARCO Flight 284 crashed into the sea east of Rhodes following an inflight bomb explosion.

            2 January 1971: United Arab Airlines Comet 4 SU-ALC Flight 844 crashed near Tripoli Airport, Libya.

            1. Z.Beeblebrox the 5th

              Dont be silly

              Remove the pilot error issues, bombs and terrorists, then you are left wioth just the well known structural failures of the Comet 1 airfarmes. This was down to little or nothing being known about metal fatigue at the time, and that square windows on a pressurised airliner were not the best idea. This was addressed sucessfully and teh resulting airframe was strong, and gave very good service. Fact is the comet 4 was a strong reliable aircraft

            2. ideapete

              1971 MODERN ?

              Achtung Achtung - UK guy believes 1971 is modern ?

              Actually old chap most American airframes in use today where build with a lot of military switch capability in them as part of the gov funding requirements in case you Brits invade us and try to steal our cold beer again

              1. Anonymous Coward

                Re: 1971 MODERN ?

                "Achtung Achtung - UK guy believes 1971 is modern ?"

                Slicing through your incoherence here, it should be noted that in 1971 the Comet 4 was still a relatively modern aircraft in terms of introduction timeline (not necessarily technology, otherwise they'd probably have weighed up using Concorde or something similarly new at the time - perverse, maybe, but it's the military, remember - but read what others have said about not using the absolute newest kit). That it is no longer modern has more to say about the continual refurbishment of these planes, not some non-existent decision to go and procure some Comet airframes in this day and age.

                And, by the way, no amount of feeble "old chap" and "achtung" exclamations can cover up an inadequate grasp of the discussion's finer points.

            3. Anonymous Coward

              Airliner Flight 322 hit a tree on takeoff at São Paulo, Brazil.

              Hang on whilst my mind boggles.

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Re: Why not a modern airliner?

              Well, sure, that's a long list of incidents, and maybe for many/most of them it says something about the reliability of the aircraft, although you'd have to look at the incident reports to draw any actual conclusions, but quite what "destroyed by Israeli troops in an attack at Beirut, Lebanon" and "damaged by an inflight bomb explosion, crashed in the Mediterranean Sea" have to do with reliability or safety issues beyond a straight copy and paste from Wikipedia remains somewhat vague.

              Were the designers of the Comet to blame for the likes of Bruce Willis not being able to emerge from a flaming aircraft hangar, airframe intact, ready for take-off? Sheesh!

        2. Anton Ivanov

          I can tell you why

          Modern airliners are built at the limits of the material science. Bastardising them to do something different is a very expensive and difficult affair.

          A lot of the older designs have _MUCH_ more tolerance built in. That is why NASA continues to modify its early "no-composites" B747 and does not try anything like that for example on a B777 airframe.

          If a Nimrod equivalent was to be built today the best starting point would have been a fully re-manufactured airframe from one of the 70-es jets. L1011, Vickers VC10 or anything else from that era. They all can be abused to an extent no modern airframe can.

          However with a lot of them the problem of "coach building" would have been all the same as with the BAC Comets.

          1. Mr Larrington

            @Anton Ivanov

            If a Nimrod equivalent was to be built today the best starting point would have been a fully re-manufactured airframe from one of the 70-es jets. L1011, Vickers VC10 or anything else from that era.

            You couldn't base it on a VC10 airframe, though because "since [the demise of the Comet] large aircraft have no longer been made in the UK". Hence the VC10 doesn't exist, which make me wonder how I managed to get to Hong Kong and back in the early seventies.

          2. It wasnt me
            Thumb Down

            @Anton Ivanov

            Did you even read the fucking article?

            "Modern airliners are built at the limits of the material science. Bastardising them to do something different is a very expensive and difficult affair."

            How does that sit with being able to buy a Boeing 737 based equivalent for less than a third of the cost? With much lower ongoing support costs.

            1. Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Anton Ivanov

              I'm sure Mr Ivanov was comparing the 777 to other Boeing models, and despite modern variants of the 737 being introduced all the time, the original variants quite probably differ considerably from the 777 in many respects identified as being of importance. And since the 737 was introduced at the end of the 1960s, maybe it isn't regarded as a "modern airliner" by some people.

        3. Peter Simpson 1
          Thumb Up


          Thousands built half-way through the previous century, and many still flying today, all because they are the best tool for the job -- simple to operate, simple to maintain and very reliable.

          Perhaps the Nimrod upgrade was a poor decision, but the fact that DeHavilland Comet derivatives are still flying says a lot for the design.

        4. Silent but Deadly

          Not always the safe option.

          We tried that down here in Oz. Do a bit of a search for "RAAF" "Wedgetail" "Delay". Cutting edge MIL systems and integration into a modern, proven airframe. In the end they had to dumb down the deliverables because it was going to be too hard to do.

          The risk from that project was being the lead customer that in a project that was commissioning new systems and integrating them. Fortunately the maker knew that there are other buyers in the pipeline and they will offset the development costs.

          We keep upgrading our Orion maritime patrol aircraft, however once the P8 gets to market I am sure we will be lining up for that. If we are smart we will stay out of the development and purchase a v2 or v3 model right off the production line.

      2. Graham 25

        Poor use of statistics ...

        "Only five major incidents in 50 years flying is a safety record that very few aircraft can match."

        Any aircraft that spends that much time on the ground, under repair or in maintenance, can easily match that IMO.

        Every commercial aircraft by Boeing has millions of miles more of unaffected and safe service.

        This 'superbly designed' aircraft, at its first engines one test, had o be delayed due to the cockpit being full of water due to unknown leakages.

        The 'old girl' never entered modern battlespace and should have had the door slammed in its face for being late to the party, decades ago. I can recall in 1989 a bunch of incompetent project managers from the original MR aircraft looking for jobs - seems like there will be even more incompetents around this time as well.

      3. Charles Manning

        Shuttle comparason fair?

        The shuttle has a terrible history. Out of 134 missions two have crashed and approx 50 launches have been scrubbed due to minor defects and adverse weather. If aircraft were that bad then LAX or LHR would have 4 crashes before breakfast every day.

        Sure some military aircraft might have has worse mission:crash ratios (eg. the old Swordfish), but they had to keep operating under adverse conditions even when the weather got bad and kept flying when the carrier deck was pitching and rolling 15 metres or more.

        1. slhilly

          Stoopid post

          Whatta stoopid thing to write. The shuttle coped with conditions just a tiny bit more extreme than a 15m pitch on a carrier deck, what with actually flying into space and all. The requirements are orders of magnitude more complex than those for a military plane.

    3. Mips
      Jobs Horns

      Sopwith Camel

      No. Just whittled out of wood. I believe we are still good at that technology.

  3. Kevin Reilly

    Yes But

    Just what are we going to use to locate the daft b*astards who decide to set off to Florida in a rowing boat/dingy/pedalo to prove themselves hard, if/when they get into trouble ?

    1. Marcus Aurelius


      We're going to do what we should've done in the first place and let evolution take its course....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        You know the rules: Use of 'simples' = meerkat up bottom.

        If you'd just step behind the screen to your left and remove your trousers, please.

        1. ideapete

          Fly one up there

          Then we can fly a Nimrod up there and you will feel much better

    2. Steve X

      That one's easy

      Give the daft pedalling buggers a free SatNav. They'll run aground on the Isle of Wight, having put in EuroDisney by mistake.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      If you set out on that sort of trip without at least one EPIRB you shouldn't expect much chance of rescue. If you've got one they'll know your position within 3 miles, so a Nimrod won't be much use.

  4. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    How about...

    ...keeping the airplanes a while longer? Here is my plan:

    - Have them fly out over the most remote parts of the North Sea.

    - Using the spacious Nimrod bomb-bay, drop the mass of nameless bureaucrats, committees and government officials responsible for this albatross of a project.

    - THEN scrap them.

    1. Mark Aggleton


      ... can we include Lewis in the cargo as well?

  5. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    My wife was quite upset this morning - after I explained to her that these "ultramodern" airplanes, whose demise was so lamented on BBC, were almost as old as the Sally-B. She was furious at BBC wasting money trying to justify upgrading an old Lada by Brabus.

    If only a fraction of the Nimrod restoration budget could be spent on keeping the Vulcan and Sally-B flying it would have done much better service to the country...

    1. Dave 15


      "The MRA4 was essentially a new aircraft, with current-generation Rolls-Royce BR710 turbofan engines, a new larger wing, and fully refurbished fuselage. Much larger air intakes were required because the airflow of the BR710 engine was significantly higher than that of the original Spey 250. The rebuilt aircraft borrowed heavily from Airbus technology; the wings were designed and manufactured by BAE Systems (a former Airbus partner) and the glass cockpit was derived from that of the Airbus A340."

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


        An old Lada with an LCD speedo and custom-shaped wings will still remain an old Lada. Sorry.

      2. Marcus Aurelius
        Paris Hilton


        I wasn't sure whether you were for or against, but the comment shows they were a small number of custom developed aircraft, for which maintenance costs would be huge.

        I'm surprised they didn't simply use an Airbus or similar. Someone has mentioned that they're built near tolerance limits, but this is a fallacy; they're built to hold several hundred people and their luggage, so carrying a small crew of 10 and some electronics (even several tons of electronics) will probably be a weight reduction. You wouldn't even have to put a glass cockpit and redesigned engines and wings on them, because the ones they come with would be perfectly adequate, and Line Replacable Units would be available for the most part in any BA/Virgin service depot if really needed.

        Paris, because getting her going is almost as expensive as a Nimrod.

      3. Vic


        > fully refurbished fuselage

        Why did they refurbish old fuselages?

        I know very little about aircraft construction - but given the cost of the project, did it really save much money to use old frames?

        And, if what we read above about the hand-built approach to sizes is correct, surely it is that decision that ultimately doomed the whole idea.

        This is beginning to smack of penny-wise, pound-foolish management...


    2. ideapete

      Wife Upset ? So was mine

      But I was talking about a different Rod problem dear

  6. Tom 15


    The BBC haven't really been arguing to keep them, in fact they did an article about 30 minutes ago talking about how crap they were and how they had to go...

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


      That was the BBC News this morning. Mind you, the presenters in general sounded and looked more boisterous and euphoric than usual - must have had a busy night after the TV Awards ceremony...

  7. Valerion

    Pimp My Nimrod

    £4Bn? Should've given them to Tim Westwood and he would have got custom interiors with playstations and mobile wifi, alloy landing wheels and supercharged engines in there for a FRACTION of that.

  8. Martin J Hooper


    Vladimir Sally-B is still flying - Saw her last year...

    I agree though that some of that Nimrod money could have been put to keeping her flying and all the other WW2 planes still flying!

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Sally-B

      Sure, she is flying - thanks to Elly Sallingboe and the supporters club - but every year it is getting more and more difficult to finance keeping her airworthy...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Use the saved cash?

    Maybe they should use some of the billions saved to help the 450 employees and families who will be affected when the jobs are lost. This will have a big effect on the local area - many of these people were my schoolmates

    1. Emperor Zarg

      Here... have this!

      The Telegraph reports 1,200 likely job losses. Instead of "investing" £4bn in the MRA4, we could just have given those 1,200 people a cool £3m. EACH. And it would still have been cheaper.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      " This will have a big effect on the local area - many of these people were my schoolmates"

      As it *always* does. Is it in a marginal Lib Dem or Con seat? Being in one (when Labor was in power) was very helpful then they were deciding where to build the next generation of aircraft carriers and submarines (coincidentally also built by BAe)

      And once again BAe will play the "But think of the *incalculable* loss of skills/jobs/(revenue-to-us) to British industry" card.

      As they *always* do.

      I think BAe have used it's staff as "human shields" *many* more times than Saddam Hussein ever did.

      ""Maybe they should use some of the billions saved to help the 450 employees and families who will be affected when the jobs are lost."

      I quite agree.

      As others have said if it's defense industry jobs you could take *half* the programmes cost and pay *every* worker (they tend to earn normal peoples salaries, not investment gamblers) their *lifetimes* salary *several* times over and still come out a *long* way ahead.

      It's funny in the 80's people used a similar argument to keep open the steel works of British Steel open. A group with 10s of 1000s of workers.

      The government of the day didn't bat an eyelid on shutting them down.

      I find defense engineering fascinating (human kind is rarely so creative as when it's trying to hunt and kill its fellows) but I loath special pleading by giga dollar (most of BAe staff are *not* in the UK and most of it's revenue is not in £. So much for the "British" in BAe) defense con-tractors.

      I don't think I've *ever* seen a group of *huge* companies more prone to special case whinning that than the giga corps of the defense *business* (not hobby, charity, vocation or sacred trust)

      Actually I do have a more constructive suggestion on defense procurement but I'll leave than for a more balanced post.

  10. OzBob
    IT Angle

    At least you still have a air-based strike force,...

    since the Skyhawks and Aermachies were mothballed, most of the combat aircraft in New Zealand are owned by Peter Jackon of LOTR fame.

    (There's a Stuka and a Hurricane on the lawn in front of the museum as well but they strangely don't include phots on their website. Well, they were there 4 weeks ago when I cycled past)

    1. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

      No bad thing

      New Zealand having a strike airforce is as useful as Austria having a navy.

      I vaguely recall them considering some F4 phantoms many years ago - thank christ that one didn't pan out.

      1. Dagg

        So Very True!

        Any country that is capable of invading NZ would have the hardware that could easily out fly and out gun anything that NZ could afford to buy.

        1. Diogenes
          Black Helicopters

          New Zealand 100% for the taking

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: At least you still have a air-based strike force,...

      "most of the combat aircraft in New Zealand are owned by Peter Jackon of LOTR fame"

      But he also knows a few dragons who are willing to pitch in if there's a crisis. So, panic over for now!

    3. fred #257

      Air-based joke I think you mean

      Peter Jackson's Sopwith Camels or whatever are probably more use anyway. Since the Guvmint mothballed the Shi... Skyhawks they've been trying to sell them, curiously nobody else seems to be interested in small old slow jet fighters with limited range and high airframe hours.

      At least we do have some Orions which are much more useful for all sorts of things, not least finding lost yachts.

  11. Desk Jockey

    Airframes are unimportant it is the kit on them that counts

    By way the way, don't forget those fantastic Rivet Joints (in fact a rather good deal for Blighty) are almost as old as the Nimrods as many of those airframes entered service in the 1950s (KC 135 tankers mainly). The reason being is that the USAF cannot stand the modern Boeing airframes which cannot take the weight of all the electronic equipment. Those planes are fantastically over-engineered which makes them very useful while the new ones are computer designed and have limited weight margins. Age is no barrier to success!

    Truthfully, what big lumbering plane you use to fly spy or anti-sub missions with is irrelevant, what counts is the kit on board. Having said that, Nimrod was a travesty of BAE political lobbying overcoming any commercial or engineering common-sense.

    Final point - No UAV in the world can do the same job as the Nimrod R1s or the Rivet Joints nor will they for a number of years yet. There are lots of technical reasons for this so don't bother trying to sell the idea that UAVs such as Reaper can take on this role. What they do is completely different and while they are cheaper to run, having a big flying command post full of thinking and judgemental humans is one of the most useful things a soldier can have. UAVs don't cut it and cannot transmit the same level of data back to analysts on the ground. Maybe in the future, but that is a long way away and cannot be done now. The end of that argument!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Final point

      I think you missed the point, which was that the MR2s (not R1s as you state) were being used simply as a platform for seeing into valleys, for which UAVs would have been equally effective or possibly better at considerably less cost.

      1. Scorchio!!

        Re: re: Final point

        "I think you missed the point, which was that the MR2s (not R1s as you state) were being used simply as a platform for seeing into valleys, for which UAVs would have been equally effective or possibly better at considerably less cost."

        Not just UAVs, but also the new breed of high flying semi-dirigibles, which can stay aloft for very long periods of time. The only problem there would be weather, unless there were no ECMs on board in the event that the Talibs obtained sophisticated weaponry, in which case make that two.

      2. Desk Jockey

        Still not quite

        No, that just tells us that the MOD does not have enough UAVs, not that the current planes cannot do their jobs.

        It is a little more complex than just pointing a camera into the valleys or relaying communications. Whilst it is true that UAVs should be doing that job, not big planes with lots of people in the back, those planes are actually doing quite a bit more than just 'looking'. Their version of looking includes eavesdropping, taking bearings on Taliban transmissions, jamming signals, vectoring in ground or other spy units like UAVs etc. These are dark arts that require a highly trained and thinking himan to do, the UAVs cannot cut it. The human has to be close to the action in order to follow the transmissions and the kit they need is rather heavy hence you need a big plane to carry it.

        I was not making a point that these planes were not doing jobs better suited to UAVs. My point was that saying a UAV can replace these planes is not true and won't be true for a long time yet. UAVs can only do a small proportion of the job and yes using a hammer to crack a nut is excessive, but using a nutcracker to hammer a nail is stupid too!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ... funniest thing I've read in ages!

    Unless it was meant as a piece of serious "journalism", in which case it was some of the most ill-informed rubbish I have read this year - is Mr Page trying out for a desk at the Daily Fail?

    Just picking up on Desk Jockey's comment; the actual airframes of the Rivet Joint aircraft are older than the Nimrods they will be replacing - not the design, the airframe!

  13. davenewman

    Last Comets to not come down with metal fatigue

    I thought it was civilian Comets, with square windows, that were notorious for breaking in two after metal fatigue had grown cracks from the window corners right around the fuselage? It was so famous that Nevil Shute wrote a popular thriller about it.

    So how come the Nimrods haven't cracked open?

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      So how come the Nimrods haven't cracked open?

      They've cut the corners...

      1. The First Dave
        Dead Vulture


        "The Comet, designed in the 1940s, failed commercially"

        But not technically. Once the metal fatigue issues were understood and overcome, it has remained a good technical design. That people were scared by the problems with the Mark 1 is totally irrelevant to this decision.

        1. ideapete

          Boeing said thanks

          As they watched the Comets plow into the ground ( Pun ) copied all the troubleshooting data that followed and Hey Presto the 707 - Saved them a ton of money and bits of people

    2. Anonymous Coward


      ....because it was only the Comet 1s that had this problem, the Comet 2, 3 and 4, and the Nimrod, all had rounded windows. Well, the Nimrod had precious few windows by comparison actually.

      The problems on the Comet were due to lack of knowledge of certain types of failure and R.E.Bishop's original design being changed in production because of difficulties encountered in glueing the window surrounds to the skins. This was done with Redux metal glue, but the process was awkward and eventually the production engineers said that if they could change to riveting in addition to the glue it would allow them to meet their delivery schedules.

      So, rivets went in, but the drilling required left holes that were not reamed to an adequate standard (there are stories of mis-drilled holes being left in place too) and so served as stress concentrators and hence crack generators.

      These were the days when it was viewed as acceptable to deliver aircraft with cracks found in production stop-drilled, but in a weak airframe (Comets were severely underpowered and to compensate the skin thickness was reduced to extremely small values) such actions led to structures that could not sustain the increased cyclic pressurisation loads with the result that we all know.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "I thought it was civilian Comets, with square windows, that were notorious for breaking in two after metal fatigue had grown cracks from the window corners right around the fuselage?"

      Not quite. The original comet design had square windows whose corners acted as stress concentrators, which eventually called structural failure. The design was revised but the length of time taken to handle the situation meant other design were bought by the airlines. Frankly De Havilland (the original manufacturer) eagerness to use their own engine subsidiaries engines (none of which were very powerful) mandated *very* thin sheet and their lack of long term fatigue testing (to get it into the market ahead of Boeing) coupled with a patchy record on stress analysis (they seemed to have a tendency to break up in mid air) pretty much spelt accident waiting to happen.

      " It was so famous that Nevil Shute wrote a popular thriller about it."

      Not quite. The one I know "No highway" was written in 1948, the comet crashes date from the early 50's. It's been filmed with James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich. The book is better.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    End of Nimrod?

    I can still remember the last Nimrod acquisition disaster. Back in the late 1980s when I was a student at Manchester University, studying aeronautical engineering, we were encouraged to join the Royal Aeronautical Society. One evening we went to a meeting of the society at BAE Woodford and were shown the Nimrod AEW3 airframes that had cost over a billion pounds to develop, but had failed to make it to operational flying; the RAF went on to buy the US made Boeing E-3 Sentry that they'd wanted in the first place.

    Full details of this disaster here:

  15. IsJustabloke
    Thumb Up

    I refuse to enoble a simple forum post....

    I largely agree with Lewis on this, however, it is probably fair to say that the Nimrod crews can't be replaced with cheap imports and that they are universally respected around the world for their skill and capabilities.

    They have begun training with the rivet joint guy's and our colonial cousins are expecting to get as much out of our guy's as much as we're expecting to get out of them.

    Despite being underfunded / overstretched our armed forces are still amongst the most respected in the world and we should be proud of that.

    1. ideapete

      Nimrod Brits seen at NAS Jacksonville

      Dont think its a surprise as we have heard that several brits in RAF uniforms have been on a tour of proposed Poseidon bases in the US end of last year including Naval Air Station Jacksonville . At least they may have been brits walking real upright and bitching about the cold beer. I couldn't find any female information on the state of their rods , nim or otherwise

  16. Anonymous Coward


    Forgot to mention search and rescue.

    Ignore security work, secret missions in the sandbox, subs or anything like that. The most useful function Nimrod had was providing search and rescue capability right out into the Atlantic. Not only searching vast areas of ocean but also deploying life rafts and vectoring helicopters.

    Oh well...

    1. Alfred

      That's not what they're actually for, though

      It's lovely that they did that as an added bonus, but it's not what they're for and it's certainly not worth the price tag.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crap plane - but...

    Comparing the price of the development of the Nimrod to the price of a new Orbiter is misleading as it ignores the huge amounts of money NASA sunk into designing the Shuttle in the first place.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    AEW3 ?

    Surprised no one has mentioned the £3 billion UK plc spent on the godawful GEC-Marconi[1] early warning radar that was was meant to be fitted to the Nimrod. Beloved of no one, and running at it's peak 1,000 change requests a day ....

    [1]Readers under 30 may need to ask their parents .....

    1. Anonymous Coward

      The real story...

      ...right at the end was rather different. The basic radar system was working well, but it had a serious problem with returns from road traffic overloading the processing. Hence the people where I worked (part of GEC) created the Vehicle Correlator, a piece of hardware that removed these unwanted targets before the software that maintained the tracks on screen saw them. This was otherwise known as the "car crusher". This was the point at which GEC had been allowed to manage the project itself, previously this was done from arms length by MOD PE who were notorious for getting it wrong (nothing changes then, they're still doing it today).

      However, as we all knew anyway, the crabs (RAF types) were set on jollies to the US of A where they could learn all about the AWACS system, rather than being instructed on the Nimrod system up at sunny RAF Woodford (not!) so, dressed-up by the RAF brass as a heap of junk, the plug was pulled on Nimrod despite the long and thankless labours of all of the people working at the GEC Avionics Borehamwood, Radlett and Hemel Hempstead sites.

      Mine's the one with the offset-fed carbon-fibre S-band antenna in the pocket, not that nasty folded-cassegrain one with the sidelobe problem! (wonder how many people remember that aspect of the performance problems?)...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Black Helicopters

        The whole thing was a socialist abortion

        foisted on the RAF by a heavily politicised MoD who were being told the supplier must be British at all costs ... typical of the 1960s Labour philosphy which bought you the Austin Allegro and Morris Marina.

        Technically AIUI the system was actually *too good*. One (unconfirmed) rumour I heard was that it could pick up field mice ...

        On a tangent, does anyone recall the GEC scientists that started commiting "suicide" in increasing bizarre ways ?

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


          "On a tangent, does anyone recall the GEC scientists that started commiting "suicide" in increasing bizarre ways "


          it was in the late 80s, early 90's.

          Someone noticed a bunch of specialists had committed suicide. I don't think they were all with the Generally Evil Company but they were all (or mostly) Asian men (Indian or Pakistani origin, not Viet Nam), most if not all were married and the suicides often involved drowning in lakes or rivers. They all seemed to be involved in "Signal processing" IIRC in a marine environment, so probably EW or ASW work. There was a book published but it did not seem to have a theory.

          BTW I don't think it's a myth that the suicide rate amongst married Asian men is exceptionally low.

          The whole thing seemed so bizarre I kept expecting a rather dapper old Etonian in a bowler hat and umbrella to pop up and start asking questions.

          Mine will be the one with The Avengers Season 1 DVD in the pocket.

    2. Tanuki
      IT Angle

      It's a bird, innit? It's a bloody sea bird . .. Albatross!

      If you mention the 1980s Nimrod AEW3 I may have to bore you to suicidally-high levels of ennui with tales of semaphore-programming on the dreaded GEC 40xx series computers.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "If you mention the 1980s Nimrod AEW3 I may have to bore you to suicidally-high levels of ennui with tales of semaphore-programming on the dreaded GEC 40xx series computers."

        Would that have been the processor that ran so hot it needed liquid cooling?

        Very fortunate indeed that the Nimrod designers had included space for some large coolant tanks in the wings.

        Seriously weren't programmed in some kind of GEC proprietary language known only to a bout 4 people outside the company (3 of whom were ex employees)?

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        My mistake. The proprietary language I was thinking of turned out to be the Babbage assembler (although from some of the source it looks a *nice* assembler) whose layout fooled me into thinking it was an HLL.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Are you being served?

    Just to add some historical perspective, the De Havilland Comet was the airliner featured in the "Are You Being Served?" film. And the last time I saw Portillo doing anything, he was wearing a pink shirt and enthusing about some railway journey on television.

    Maybe these two apparently unconnected events really have a deeper, hidden connection that we're all missing. Get on the case, Lewis!

  20. bitmap animal

    Tabloid headline grabbing!

    Very disappointed to see tabloid headline-grabbing tactics of valuing one plane using the total project cost against the build costs of individual production aircraft. That is grossly unfair and IMHO discredits the rest of the article despite the costs being clarified later on. I’m sure everyone here is intelligent enough to read through that but a silly and meaningless point.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @bitmap animal

      "Very disappointed to see tabloid headline-grabbing tactics of valuing one plane using the total project cost against the build costs of individual production aircraft."

      Look up the term "Absorption costing".

      It's *very* popular in military procurement circles (popular with military con-tractors that is).

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    It was, the early Comet 1's suffered a series of disastrous accidents due to rapid depressurisaton. This led to a major redesign, leading ultimately to the Comet 4 which was effectively a brand new design - the Nimrod is based on the Comet 4, but there is very little of the original Comet design in Nimrod.

    It also points out part of the reason why Comet was not a commercial success. The redesign meant that Comet was late back into the marketplace, so was playing catch up; and like many British designs of the time (cf VC10 and Trident) it was overengineered; I flew on both Comets and VC10s in the '70s and they were much more pleasant flying experiences than their US equivalents.

    But there is another reason, and this is also a major factor in why Britain no longer manufactures large aircraft. The Boeing 707 only succeeded commercially because the tanker version was bought by the USAF; effectively the US Government and military subsidised the civil airliner, which meant that it was impossible for anybody else to compete effectively. The irony, when you look at Boeing's recent complaints about the unfair subsidy of Airbus, is almost too funny.

    Paris, because Mr Page obviously thinks if it is American it is immediately superior to everything else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      VC10 (over)engineered for a reason

      To fly off short runways in "hot and high" locations around the former colonies.

      Result was a fast and quiet ride.

      Sales were not helped by mucking about from BOAC.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        And especially....

        ...from civil servants who had not appreciated the rate at which Britain's "empire routes" to East Africa and the Far East were disappearing in the 1960s, skewing the aircraft programmes towards requirements that made them uneconomic when pushed into trans-atlantic services that were becoming some of the most important air routes due to the increase in travel from the US to Europe.

        Nice looking aeroplane though, with a lot of reserve power for when things went wrong and a missed approach was needed in poor weather.

      2. Scorchio!!

        Re: VC10 (over)engineered for a reason

        "Result was a fast and quiet ride."Q

        Quiet? It was also a troop transport, and I recall them as noisy beasts.

        1. AndyMM

          So do I

          Quiet was not how I recall them either.

    2. Davey1000

      Boeing and the VC10s

      I have flown in VC10s several times and IMHO they are a superb aircraft noted for the quietness inside the cabin. Many years ago British Airways auctioned-off their VC10s because they were trading up to bigger planes. To everyone's amazement the high bidder for the VC10s was Boeing! This was a great shame because there were third world airlines still running piston engined planes however these airlines had been outbid. The VC10s were then broken up for scrap as Boeing did not want them in the market place. The double whammy of course was the loss of maintenance contracts and profits from the supply of spares for the planes. A case of Britain being stabbed in the back AGAIN. Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    El Reg...

    ... invented this icon for Lewis' articles. Is he being paid by several US defense lobby groups?

    That said, the MOD civil servants who were involved in the decision making process and procurement need to have their pensions halved.

  23. David Webb


    More quotes that Lewis missed...

    "Some of Nimrod’s roles in home waters can be covered by frigates, short-range Merlin anti-submarine helicopters or even the C130 Hercules. They fall short, however, of replacing the strategic multi-role contribution of Nimrod"

    In other words, we do not have anything that can fill the gap the Nimrod is going to create, the P8A isn't them saying "we should buy American" it's them saying "we're getting rid of the Nimrod when other countries are looking the opposite direction"

    "Without any explanation, the Security and Defence Review announced that the Nimrod MR4 maritime patrol aircraft would not be brought into service. The decision was fiercely debated within the MoD, but the need for immediate savings and priority for current operations prevailed."

    Looks like the MoD actually wanted to keep the Nimrod.

    1. Frank Bough

      Hang on a minute...

      Retiring an aircraft that's NOT YET IN SERVICE doesn't create any kind of gap. The awful truth is that these stupendously expensive aeroplanes don't actually do us any good at the moment anyway.

      Honestly, what is so hard about buying up a fleet of 737s or A-320s and fitting them out with the requisite gear? Why must it cost BILLIONS and take 20 years to complete? Seems to me that the RAF need to insist that electronics packages are built to a standardised modular form such that aircraft don't have to be massively modified to take them. If you want to see an efficient bit of aircraft modification, take a look at NASA's recently launched SOFIA

      1. Vic

        Ed Force One...

        > Honestly, what is so hard about buying up a fleet of 737s or A-320s and

        > fitting them out with the requisite gear?

        Iron Maiden's road crew fitted out a 757-200 to fly a world tour. I'll bet their budget was rather smaller than the billions we're seeing here...


      2. twelvebore


        Erm... have you clicked on the 'History of SOFIA' link on that web page?

        1. Frank Bough


          ...and that's why it's a good comparison for the Nimrod.

      3. Anton Ivanov

        Because you cannot

        The early 737 and A31x can be augmented if you can find one in good condition.

        The stuff coming down the production line today like 737-800 has been considerably "lightened" and "improved" versus the original 737 spec. Grafting all the antennas, pods, sensors, etc is likely to prove seriously problematic without at least some degree of structural redesign and reinforcement as well as some aerodynamic work.

        Compared to that a VC10 or something else from 30 years back is so crazily overspec-ed (by todays standards) that it will fly even if it ends up looking like a camel with a set of jet engines.

      4. Anonymous Coward

        engineering knowledge

        if you actually had any real engineering knowledge, you'd realise that Venga buses you quoted ARE NOT SUITABLE to hunt and kill subs at low level. THEY ARE BUSES! NOT HUNTER KILLERS!

        Remember when the Victor Bomber, changed its mission to low level?

        And big cracks were being found when they weren't expected?


        How many commentards can you get on one article? there should be a counter!

        Next theyll be saying yeah lets save cash by giving the police bicycles to catch people speeding on the motorway...

    2. ideapete

      Numbnuts Numrod

      Everyone knows that MOD would like to have a rod that works and none would use an antique nimrod, the wimen wouldn't stand for it. It was probably a Job creation tool anyway and they at least could have pulled the rivets outa the holes one by one ( rapidly ) to keep the workers peckers up ( Pick your own puns )

  24. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Yes But

    There will be a new long range drone., which although not able to drop supplies or lifeboats will at least video them for youtube.

    1. Frank Bough

      Let's talk about lifesaving, then

      how many air ambulances could have been provided for the UK at the same cost as the pointless Nimrod projects? Let's keep a bit of perspective here.

  25. s. pam

    Clearly the BBC is involved

    Let's take it to the limit. No one can waste more money than the Beeb given all in the news in the last 12 months o catastrophic waste, inflated salaries, overpaying for things.

    Seems if there's been any RIF's @ the Beeb in the last 4-10 years we now know who hired them -- The RAF!

  26. Anonymous Coward

    AWACS only cost

    £120-200m / plane.

    So that's (a) more planes, (b) new toys, (c) up to date interoperable kit

    RAF doesn't do logic I know but if they did.......

  27. Steven Hunter

    Name has different meaning over here...

    Not sure if it is well known in the UK, but here in the US the word "Nimrod" is a pejorative term, loosely similar to geek or nerd.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      But over here.... is the name of the mighty hunter found in the Bible.

      1. perlcat
        Black Helicopters

        leading to much merriment.

        Honestly. Sub in 'dumbshit' every place Nimrod appears, and try to read the article without laughing.

        ...and yes, I knew all along that it is a serious name in other parts of the world.

      2. ideapete

        The Tower of BS ( MOD)

        Also supposed to be the creator of the "Tower of Babel Lota BS in that one " which fits MOD perfectly well ----ironic that it will be replaced by Boeing P-8 Poseidon ( God of the sea and Earth Shaker ) shows you have to be real careful about your nicknames

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Steven Hunter

      I'd always thought it was an ironic term for slow-witted (like "tiny" being a nickname for a a great bear of a man).

      I think the UK associates it with the mythical Greek (hunter?)

    3. ideapete

      The thing on the front its stiff

      Shucks I thought the thing on the front of the nimrod looked quite stiff although funny mounted on its head ( three puns in that one )

    4. Tony Sweeney

      Th-Th-Thats all folks

      "Nimrod" was Bugs Bunny's pet name for Elmer "mighty hunter" Fudd:

  28. Nick Galloway


    What was wrong with the Shackletons. They did the job well enough and were not nearly as costly as these things. Speed is not essential in maritime observations. You want a limo not a sports car!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Flying in a Shack.....

      ....was not too different to a Lancaster, very very noisy, lots of vibration and fatiguing to both the electronics and to the humans aboard. And too slow when transiting from one area of interest to another. The Nimrod was faster by a significant margin, and could loiter with two engines shut down to extend its time on station by a fair amount.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Shackletons

      They'd got to the point where they were 99% rivet 1% original airframe...

      1. nichomach

        ...and were displaying

        a distressing tendency to pile nose first into mountainsides, IIRC

  29. Yag

    "a massive gap in British security has opened"

    Makes me think of the mineshaft gap...

  30. Dave 15


    Where the ****** do you get your 'information'?

    The package was actually very capable, one reason it is being destroyed rather than sold (of course someone will doubtless argue it was so crap it couldn't be sold, but frankly that is totally untrue).

    The lack of the ability to see what is going on cripples our armed forces. If we were to ever be involved in a war situation the navy (without aircraft cover and with a couple of nice flat topped target practice ships for the enemy to laugh at) will be useless and unable to protect convoys. We will then have to beg, borrow or try and steal some similar capability from the Americans - which won't be forthcoming if, for example, the war happened to be with Argentina over the Falklands.

    Now we have a situation where we can't see any evil, we have no capability to fly planes from anything but runways which we have proved - in WW2 and the Falklands war - are extremely vulnerable and could be put totally out of use within 5 minutes of the start of any future war. We can't move supplies around because we are now vulnerable to submarines. We can't move an army around (even if we had one) because the ships are vulnerable above and below, and we can't see where to move them.... all in all we are left in a situation by this bunch of mindless lunatics where we might as well scrap the whole ministry of defence and armed forces in their entirity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I kinda agree that the forces have been well and trully shafted, sadly its down to miss managment and one-up-man ship from politictions. one thing i would point out to your statment regarding runways being taken out of action is that, in WW2 they may well have been knocked out in 5 min but it didnt take much longer to rebuild them again, and the falklands...well it would help if we had actually hit the thing and what damage was done was mostly repared in no time at all, they got into a fight that they were not prepared for, wiping out their only capitol ship in the area showed them that anyhow a combnation of things including (mostly )luck gave us that one. our once proud navy and airforce is a joke, i agree we dont need it now, but then we didnt really need it in the 1920s either did we, we can plan for many things we can think about, but as humans we seem to forget its the crap we dont think about that shafts us.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Dave 15

      "where we might as well scrap the whole ministry of defence and armed forces in their entirity."


      Not sure about the *armed* forces but the MoD?

      Remember all that oh-so-clever procurement took 20 000 staff to do.

      And it looks like they still got it wrong.

    3. Graham 25

      Dear Dave ...

      If things were that bad, how well do you feel that the halfwits that have taken a decade to fail to get a working system off the ground, would be able to use all this data that it will allegedly will produce?

      Methinks you assume that we will be worse off, but after 10 years of failure to deliver, the incompetents in charge have little track record of being able to deliver anything workable. Why should we believe that anything will ever fly or work ? Earlier versions never got off the ground.

      If the MoD had stuck to the programme, they could have delivered it by now. Its not our fault that we do not have bottomless pockets, to continue to fund the ego of the RAF.

      Buy Rivet Joint and have done with it and accept that any shortfall in capability lies squarely with the RAF and not with the taxpayer for being mean. Us taxpayers have been very generous for 10 years and now it time to take the broken toys, throw them away and close the nursery..

      Yes we may be less secure, but its no worse than the same level of security and being billions out of pocket as BAE and the RAF continue to take the taxpayers for a ride.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    "custom interiors with playstations and mobile wifi"

    DeskJockey and others have it right. The airframe itself is a small part of the cost; there is a huge amount to be spent on the "custom interiors with militarised workstations and flyable networks".

    The bill of materials costs for these things may get smaller as you cut the number ordered, but the (alleged) engineering development costs from Raytheon, BAe, Boeing, etc for stuff like this don't get smaller just because someone cut the order quantity.

    Incidentally, when are we going to hear some coverage from El Reg of the inquiry into the 2006 Nimrod crash in Afghanistan, the Haddon-Cave report published in October 2009 [1], the one that, unusually, names names [2]. I thought it had even led to arrests but I can no longer find any evidence (anybody?).

    This report is the one that attacked BAe for things like “building a wall of denial and obfuscation which the Review has had to dismantle,” and blamed the management for a culture that was not “committed to safety and ethical conduct”. With similar commens about QinetiQ.

    And an expression of deep concern about "Powerpoint culture", a concern which should be widely noted.



    Loss of XV230 avoidable

    9. The Nimrod Safety Case was drawn up between 2001 and 2005 by BAE Systems (Phases 1 and 2) and the MOD Nimrod Integrated Project Team (Third Phase), with QinetiQ acting as independent advisor. The Nimrod Safety Case represented the best opportunity to capture the serious design flaws in the Nimrod which had lain dormant for years. If the Nimrod Safety Case had been drawn up with proper skill, care and attention, the catastrophic fire risks to the Nimrod MR2 fleet presented by the Cross-Feed/SCP duct and the Air-to-Air Refuelling modification would have been identified and dealt with, and the loss of XV230 in September 2006 would have been avoided.

    Lamentable job

    10. Unfortunately, the Nimrod Safety Case was a lamentable job from start to finish. It was riddled with errors. It missed the key dangers. Its production is a story of incompetence, complacency, and cynicism. The best opportunity to prevent the accident to XV230 was, tragically, lost. (Chapters 10A and 10B)

    General malaise

    11. The Nimrod Safety Case process was fatally undermined by a general malaise: a widespread assumption by those involved that the Nimrod was ‘safe anyway’ (because it had successfully flown for 30 years) and the task of drawing up the Safety Case became essentially a paperwork and ‘tickbox’ exercise. (Chapter 11)

    Criticisms of BAE Systems

    12. BAE Systems bears substantial responsibility for the failure of the Nimrod Safety Case. Phases 1 and 2 were poorly planned, poorly managed and poorly executed, work was rushed and corners were cut. The end product was seriously defective. There was a big hole in its analysis: BAE Systems had left 40% of the hazards “Open” and 30% “Unclassified”. The work was, in any event, riddled with errors of fact, analysis and risk categorisation. The critical catastrophic fire hazard relating to the Cross-Feed/SCP duct (Hazard H73) had not been properly assessed and, in fact, was one of those left “Open” and “Unclassified”. Further, at handover meetings in 2004, BAE Systems gave the misleading impression to the Nimrod IPT and QinetiQ that the task had been properly completed and could be signed off and deliberately did not disclose to its customer the scale of the hazards it had left “Open” and “Unclassified” (many with only vague recommendations that ‘further work’ was required). The Nimrod IPT and QinetiQ representatives were lulled into a false sense of security. These matters raised question marks about the prevailing ethical culture at BAE Systems. (Chapter 11)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Still goes on

      I was asked to rewrite the safety case for at least one aircraft currently in manufacture to justify one of the consortium members buying cheap kit rather than kit that met the required safety level, and they wanted to be able to restrospectively justify their purchase. I refused. The cheap, unsafe kit was fitted anyway.

  32. Robert E A Harvey

    "a massive gap in British security has opened".

    No, I think not. A plane 10 years late and still not in service was already a massive gap.

    Bring back the shacks, I say

  33. Anonymous Coward

    So Basically...

    Now I'm not saying that Nimrod was the most successfull procurement programme ever, I'm not even suggesting it was ever a good idea, however...

    I fail to see on which planet scrapping a system built specifically for our needs, that can fire all of our weapons (Stormshadow, Sting-Ray), is entirely capable of doing the job required of it, for which we have trained pilots and existing logistics and support capability, that is due to enter service next year, and replacing it with an export* version of different aircraft that can't use any of the weapons we already own, with less than a fifth of the range, which requires complete re-training of all of our aircrew, will require a completely new logistics process to support both it and all those weapons we don't use anywhere else, and isn't due to enter service anywhere at all until 2013 let alone with anybody who hasn't ordered it yet, could ever be considered a good idea.

    And it really doesn't matter how cheap the US plane is or how much more the Nimrod cost than it should have done. We already spent the money on Nimrod, deal with it. The US plane won't bring that money back but will just cost more again.

    So sounds great. Gold star to the man who thought of that.

    Beer. While I can still get something other than Budweiser.


  34. Anonymous Coward

    It's a start

    Now if we can only turn ALL the other weapons into plough shears.

  35. ideapete
    Thumb Up

    Nimrods replaced by Poseidon

    The Boeing promo for the P-8A is not bad either

    The 737 airframe totally rocks and is one of the most reliable in the world

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Venga Buses arent...

      designed to hunt and kill submarines or pirates!

      that is all...

    2. Davey1000

      737 Reliability?

      How can a 737 be reliable? (it only has two engines) Having said that I have actually flown the Atlantic in one although the travel agent had faithfully promised that the plane would be a 747. The flight was only a few weeks after the Kegworth air disaster so I almost went back home. This particular 737 had Rolls-Royce stickers on the engine pods so I decided to chance it as it was the Snecma CFM engines that had been giving trouble. Allegedly the fire alarm plugs have now been modified to prevent accidental cross-plugging (allegedly the downfall of the Kegworth plane as allegedly the good engine was shut down and the bad engine set to full power). Oh by the way it was a horrible plane with seats made for dwarves and it was right on its safe range limit. The flight was Gatwick to Orlando stopping at Bangor Maine for refuelling. Never trust a travel agent.

  36. TkH11
    Thumb Down

    Project cost versus single aircraft cost

    Rubbish article. Factually incorrect. For the sake of big headlines the author seems to have deliberately sacrificed the accuracy of the alleged facts.

    He's comparing the total project cost of £4bn and claiming that's the cost of building a single aircraft and claiming that's higher than the cost to build a single stealth bomber or space shuttle.

    I suppose it makes for good headlines, but it's an invalid comparison.

    The project is still in development (or was) and would have led to a number of aircraft being refurbished and kitted out with new technology, to write an article implying that the total project cost of £4bn is the cost of a single aircraft is disingenuous to say the least, and I really do not believe for one moment the author of the article doesn't know this.

    Dishonest reporting.

    1. Graham 25

      Not so much ....

      10 years, £4 billion spent, one aircraft reached the Tarmac.

      Given the others may never have made it, it sounds like £4billion an aircraft to me. There is no guarantee that any other aircraft would have ever made it into the skies, to reduce the per unit cost.

  37. TkH11

    @Nick Galloway - Shackletons

    The Nimrod MR4A contains a wealth of electronics that couldn't be carried by a Shackleton, and the Shackleton airframe was way past it's use-by date.

    But the MR4A wasn't just about maritime reconnaissance, there was to be on board technology which provided another key capability which would have been extremely useful on the battlefield over land, but as this hasn't been in the news, I'm not going to mention it's name or how it works.

    You can find out yourself if you look hard on the net.

    This aircraft was far, far more than a martime surveillance plane.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sad day

    I think this scrapping was long overdue but I had the fortune of working with someone who used to fly with these. I mentioned all the press-driven "why are we flying these heaps when the US have AWACS etc?". He smiled and told me of a joint UK / US and French naval exercise where both AWAC and Nimrod were used. The US fleet had installed sophisticated jamming systems that effectively made their assets disappear. AWACS certainly couldn't find them.. Surprisingly, Nimrod did and "sank" the entire fleet. A command was then issued to gag anyone from discussing this and apparently the Nimprd failed like the AWAC.. Considering the age of the airframe upon which Nimrod was built I am happy to know that actually it was superior to the competition and I from what I understood of the new (now defunt one), it was to be a far more able beast than any other nation's in ASW. For a great many years it tracked and identified every sub in the North Atlantic, only handing over to the US around Madeira. I do not believe for one minute that the role was not done by the best assets in existence.

  39. McVirtual


    This article wound me up sufficiently to fume, but then bought me back down to reality - well written ;)

    p.s. our government & MoD are a bunch of sh*sters

    1. Mr Young

      My bad...

      For the 1st time ever I clicked the downvote by mistake (I do always try to keeps me mouse thingy on some whitespace while reading?). Sorry about that.

  40. Mr Young

    @Dave 15

    Hey man - don't panic!

  41. ideapete

    The flying Dildo

    Ref - The previous Nimrod was doing frightfully hush-hush stuff in Afghanistan –

    Yes but showing the Afgans how to put a cock on your head with a flying dildo image will not impress anyone, unless its one of those get in line or this will happen to you messages

  42. Scorchio!!

    A descendent

    ...of the Comet, and associated destruction, this aviation evolutionary cul de sac was truly expensive, in almost every way, including human lives.

    1. Veig

      At least

      At least the proponents of the Concorde had the common sense to avoid pushing for a military derivative of the project...

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You obviously know nothing really about this aircraft

    I am not going to go into details -

    I admit there were issues with the build - however the first few aircraft that were flying - and the first Production standard aircraft was already proving what a capable machine this was.

    As far as buying a P-8 why?? it only has 2 engines - down at low level at 10 West over the Atlantic if one engines fails you only have one more to get you home. A four engined jet aircraft is required.

    In addition the associated sensors on this aircraft are not necessarily ideal for the role it is to be used in.The Americans have never got this correct.

    If we need (and we do - the Nimrod cant be used as they are now being broken up) a new long time Maritime Patrol aircraft the best option available is the Japanese Kawasaki XP-1 - sadly the Japanese are limited in their overseas military sales.

    Learn about what you are talking about before writing such an article.

  44. Mips
    Jobs Halo

    What is surprising..

    .. is the speed with which the break up is happening. The usual RAF ploy is to roll old aircraft into the corner of the airfield and let them moulder. Is the MOD telling us there is NO way these are comming back?

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How good are Merkin aircraft anyway Lewis?

    Before we get too enthusiastic about the P8 Poseidon consider the following:

    Why does the P8 need a torpedo that can be launched from "high level"? Does that indicate an aircraft that doesn't have good enough handling qualities and is not robust enough to operate at very low level. What does this imply for its capability to drop sonobuoys effectively?

    Can the P8 carry both a decent weapon load and full fuel at the same time? If not, then we are into a large amount of Air to Air refuelling to achieve a decent endurance to carry out the same tasks as the Nimrod MRA4 or even the P3.

    What is the internal weapon load of the P8 (the Nimrod had a huge weapon bay, right on the CG)? If it can only carry a decent load externally then this will also reduce range and endurance.

    There are indications that the P8 has had its MAD removed for "weight saving". Even the Nimrod didn't have to shed fundamental mission equipment to achieve specification. This is possibly an indication of a fundamentally flawed design that suffers from crippling CG limitations.

    I'm also sure that everyone will be delighted to pay for the Mission System twice, as you conveniently forget to mention that a large part of the Nimrod MRA4 contract was the development of the Boeing designed Mission System.

    By the way isn't it about time that we had some El Reg coverage of the F35 money pit, or doesn't this agree with your blinkered view that everything from the USA is wonderful?

    1. Dave 15


      Add to the deficiencies of the yankee system the comparison:

      buying a yankee solution takes money from the UK and gives it to a huge and apparently profitable yankee corporate which employs precisely no one form the UK

      buying a British solution spends money in the UK improving our technology, employing people and making a competitor product that can be sold abroad.

      Easy win for the British solution.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      HELL YEAH!

      Having thought about the "boeing designed mission kit" its quite nice of to pay to develop the kit for their P8 product off the back of the MRA4, £4billion is a good price...


    3. ideapete

      Dont be Silly

      Cunning Merkin schema has nothing to do with how good the product is ,First we bury you in crap and fear ( Oh look how big his Putin is and it swims underwater and will eat all your unemployed )

      Now we have just the tool here that will shrivel his putin our brand new Posiden P8 easily replaceable with a P122 ( Trade up trade up ) and we will supply you with full credit and outrageous interest as well. You want a Bus who in the heck would try and fly an Airbus dont be silly that's a french idea and you know how that worked out when Napoleon tried to be King of E , we just want your money and your wimen cause they talk funny. How good is it indeed

  46. sibishop

    I'd be happier

    if the government had indicated that the 4bn cost of this thing would also serve as a permanent severance payment from that bunch of shysters at filton, although I guess the decision to keep the tornado in service rather than hang on to the cheaper to maintain harrier indicates that much of government defence policy is still geared towards filling up BAE's coffers as fast as possible.

    The purchasing of the rivet-joint's doesn't exactly fill one with confidence either...more vintage aircraft? If there's a need for a robust, air-liner type platform fit for a variety of purposes that can be easily adapted to future needs, can fly while wearing more aerials than a barcelona tower block...can't we get someone to build a new one?

    Maybe that way, it might not be completely shagged out in ten years time, only kept going by men with beards who spend far too long in their sheds. We could even have something worth exporting,

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    P3 Orion

    I have flown in a P3 Orion ( as it circled an interesting patch of water at slow speed on only two of its four 3,700 kW turboprop engines. The record time aloft for a P3 is 21.5 hours. Sometimes old technology is better suited to the task at hand.

    1. ideapete

      Dam Right

      Old is better - Didn't the Russians have a Tupolev Tu-142 that stayed up for 25 - 30 hours or some ungodly figure

  48. Conan257

    Innacurate report.

    Just to add a few comments to your ill-informed report.

    The MRA4 wasn't a custom made aircraft, mechanically it was an airbus. Parts wouldn't have been expensive at all, no more than the 737 option.

    MRA4 had an endurance of over 15 hours. P8 Poseidon will struggle to do 8 hours. P8 cant do low level, its locked at 3000', MRA4 is designed to go down to 200'. Nimrods payload and weapons carrying ability is about 3x that of the P8, and would have cost less since the P8 needs 2 UAV's (BAAMS) to fly with it to give full capability. Try doing some research on this before spouting off crap that you have no idea about.

    Nimrod did around 20 different Ops in the UK and abroad. You never heard about them because you didn't need to know.

    It would take the whole fleet of T23's, and the entire submarine fleet, 12 hours to reach a point that nimrod could have got to in 1 hour. In ASW its all about speed, and ships/subs dont have it.

    Further to that paragraph, AWACS cannot do anything anywhere near as good as nimrod could do. AWACS could tell you where surface vessels are, but Nimrod could tell you where they are, what they are doing, what they look like, and what equipment is on them. However, MRA4 could do all the jobs of AWACS, it had a similarly capable radar, albiet it a little more basic.

    Russia has at least 40 active submarines it can put to sea today. We probably have 10 at most.

    MR2's and R1's do completely different jobs, please dont compare differing capabilities. The MR2 had an incredibly important job in the Gulf. When they pulled out the only comment that the army made was... "When is Nimrod coming back". Why would that be I wonder?

    Get a life and learn something about defense rather than bashing what has been the most capable and most versatile aircraft the RAF has even purchased. Think about it, the replacement for Nimrod is T23/Merlin/Astute/Hercules. At least 4 assets to cover the capability that Nimrod did.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A little on aircraft capabilities

    Nimrod MR2 - Maritime Patrol Aircraft - ie Anti Sub, Anti Surface ship Warfare, General Maritime Surveillance and Search and Rescue - It was also capable of a number of other roles

    Nimrod MRA4 - Maritime Patrol Aircraft with Multi Mission capability - Anti Sub, Anti Surface ship Warfare, General Maritime Surveilance and Search and Rescue. in addition it has/had overland uses as well Plus it could carry and fire any airborne missile in the British inventory.

    Nimrod R1 - Electronic Surveillance

    Rivet Joint - Electronic Surveillance

    E-3 Sentry (AWACS) - Airborne Warning And Control System - Basically Airborne Air Traffic and Fighter control system.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Rivet joint does NOT equal R1 capability!

      If it did, why would the americans want use of the R1 more than their own kit?

      Answer: because each american platform does 1 job, our stuff (has to) do more than just 1 job.

      hence, R1 = 1000 X Rivet Joint.

  50. AndyMM

    A reasonable arguement

    This whole program from beginning to end has been an enormous waste of taxpayers money.

    In the 80s the argument was we did not need the super capable US AWACS so we should build our own cheaper version. Oddly enough these ended up being more expensive than the AWACS (when all BAE costs were added in) but were so bad that I often used to get orders to stop flipping frequencies so fast (this on an old RAF 70s design Radar) as the Nimrods could not cope during testing. This latest lot seems to be the same story repeated.

    It makes no sense to try and custom build these sort of solutions, we just re invent the wheel and it is always the taxpayers who get royally screwed.

  51. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    A suggestion for defense procurement.

    The regularly repeated advice for avoiding software f***ups is

    1) Identify what it has to do.

    2) Find packages which do it (or something *close* to it in detail)

    3) Bench mark candidates against tasks that it *has* to perform now (not the "Oh we *could* make it do that if you bung as a bag of cash once we've got the contract" BS)

    4) Pick best one and install or begin modifications (either of business or software).

    Applied to defense this would involve choosing the best kit, *then* choosing an airframe to fit it in, with the full recognition that if *none* of the inventory is up to scratch something else will have to be purchased.

    The potential problem (shown in Nimrod AEW) is the 2 *parallel* senior contractors (BAe and GEC). IIRC the full spec radar system ran fine in a Hercules but then they started dropping black boxes to fit the Nimrod because *that* was the aircraft the MoD wanted it to fit.

    The era when an air force (even the USAF) could have a type for *every* job is long gone (the one trick B58 Hustler lasted maybe a decade while the B52's came in before and are *still* flying. Their success is another part of why Boeing could invest int he 707) and whatever bought should be flexible, to a *degree*. Did Europe *need* a M2 capable fighter with *no* ground attack or bombing capability built in from day 1?

    People said Nimrod is versatile and its got a big bomb bay but what was it *carrying* in that bomb bay? Presumably they could have bombed the Falklands but all the film I've ever seen showed crews dropping sonabuoys through a tube in the back. Would splitting the task in 2 (one to carry the radar/MAD/EW kit, one to do the dropping stuff) result in more but *simpler* aircraft to procure in the first place?

    What do the 20 000 staff of MoD procurement in Bristol (except their senior managers, who live and commute from London) do all day?

    BTW Passenger airliners have mostly unpressurized baggage holds with side doors. Has anyone looked at what would be involved with conversion of this design to air dropping of weapons, sensors, rafts etc *sideways* at fairly low speed? Nimrod was a sensor carrier with *some* attack capability (never AFAIK tested). A feature I thought more to do with its post WWII/Cold Ware background than actual practicality. Why twist an off the shelf aircraft to do what is basically a *very* small part of its core task when you have structural features that *could* be adapted to function adequately when needed.

    1. Vic


      > BTW Passenger airliners have mostly unpressurized baggage holds

      Are you sure about that?

      Besides the fact that it is easier to make cylindrical pressure vessels than flat-sided ones, they put live cargo (animals) in the hold. That kinda implies a pressurised hold...


      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "Besides the fact that it is easier to make cylindrical pressure vessels than flat-sided ones,"

        Quite true. However the lightest structure is one that carries *no* pressure load, by letting both side reach equal pressure. This is one of the reasons for the 18 vents on the side of the space shuttle (the payload bay is not pressurized in flight).

        " they put live cargo (animals) in the hold. That kinda implies a pressurised hold..."

        Note that word "mostly*. On most passenger flights there is no need (is it even possible) to enter the cargo holds and no need to keep them pressurized. IIRC some can be. It's more expense and trouble for the airlines.

  52. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

    Torture-Free ASW Aircraft Partially Made In England

    If you don't want to depend on torturer's aircraft:

    you can have an aircraft partially made in Britain:

    And which is based on the highly successful A320/A319 family of aircraft.

    Now that the Royal Air Force operates A330MRTT tankers, which are the most capable tankers in existence, I am sure Airbus can also deliver an A330 or A340 ASW aircraft.

    With some creativity, the A330/A340 airframe could become a multi-role AEW/ASW/ELINT/Ground-SAR aircraft. Just plaster it with the latest antennas (on the full hull, preferably, to get maximum aperture). Process the data using dirt-cheap 3D Video cards.

    I am sure our friends at Thales have some excellent and cheap antennas available. They recently gave Germany a marvelous antenna system for change:

    (German Radar sat constellation)

  53. Anonymous Coward

    Heavy Fuel

    I would bet London to a brick that while the Space Shuttle might be cheaper to build it would be a hell of a lot more expensive to fuel! Imagine trying to fill up a Space Shuttle launch vehicle with UK fuel duty!

    Comparing with a Space Shuttle is ridiculous. It's like comparing sexual techniques of gay couples and straight couples. There's a little cross over but a good deal is unique.

  54. Anonymous Coward


    So Lewis Page is still allowed to post BIASED articles? I wonder if he got a sponsor for writing it.

    !!! FAIL REG FAIL !!!

    This is what the article should say:

    "Now I'm not saying that Nimrod was the most successfull procurement programme ever, I'm not even suggesting it was ever a good idea, however...

    I fail to see on which planet scrapping a system built specifically for our needs, that can fire all of our weapons (Stormshadow, Sting-Ray), is entirely capable of doing the job required of it, for which we have trained pilots and existing logistics and support capability, that is due to enter service next year, and replacing it with an export* version of different aircraft that can't use any of the weapons we already own, with less than a fifth of the range, which requires complete re-training of all of our aircrew, will require a completely new logistics process to support both it and all those weapons we don't use anywhere else, and isn't due to enter service anywhere at all until 2013 let alone with anybody who hasn't ordered it yet, could ever be considered a good idea.

    And it really doesn't matter how cheap the US plane is or how much more the Nimrod cost than it should have done. We already spent the money on Nimrod, deal with it. The US plane won't bring that money back but will just cost more again.

    So sounds great. Gold star to the man who thought of that.

    Beer. While I can still get something other than Budweiser."

  55. Dave 15

    This plane cost us more than two Space Shuttles...

    Somewhat more usedful if you are looking to find sneaky submarines or other down to earth problems.

  56. Z.Beeblebrox the 5th

    Dare I say...

    TSR2.... again

  57. N2

    Yet another

    Extremely successful part of Labours 'scorched earth' exit policy.

    Well, I'll be long gone before they get another chance to bugger things up.

  58. siwilko
    Thumb Down

    UK Industry

    Its yet another example of pulling the plug on British industry and eventually buying from a foreign supplier.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Uninformed, hurtful and downright wrong!

    Anon because of the black choppers...

    FYI the only thing that relates the MRA4 with the fore-bearers of the name Nimrod is: just that, the name Nimrod (and that it physically looks similar!). EVERYTHING else, is new, better and different.

    The MRA 4 was as modern as your Ryanair Venga Buses popping into IBZ, but with highly advanced mission equipment and a fooj weapons bay (the biggest, well, longest, in NATO).

    You couldnt put the equipment in a PS3, because its too big! (and older, but dont forget, the PS3 isnt a highly tuned and TEMPEST cleared piece of kit, built to Mil Specs and expected to last 25 years!)

    So stop beating up on her! She was, and would have been the best MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) anywhere in the world for at least the next 25 years.

    And before you trumpet the US kit. The P8 is SH1T compared to the MRA4, it is NOT designed specifically for the task of MPA, it was a Venga Bus designed to cruise at high altitude that has been adapted and fitted with a bomb bay which can just about fit 3 torpedoes in! (vs MRA4s <classified> number)

    And (and) before you go on about the Nimrod being based on a Comet which was also designed to cruise at high altitude, yes it was, correctomundo. The fact remains: Engines embedded in the wings is the best configuration for a low flying aircraft that drops stores from a bomb bay, and needs to be survivable and controllable over the sea should something go wrong and they need to ditch (engine nacelles arent very useful when ditching!). It is also ideal for fitting a Camera Pod because engine nacelles arent in the way of the view!

    So, to sum up, the MRA4 was a cracking aircraft, perfect for the job.

    Its just a shame incompetence at a number of levels (you know who you are!) including the Treasury, sank the project before it could really show the world what it was capable of. And bad decisions on new sales to other countries were never properly considered.

    Note: the replacement of the R1 with the RC135 rivet joint is a mistake. the 135 is older, and LESS CAPABLE. again, the R1 is the best in the world, but going to be expensively replaced by an american less capable old boot.

    Now if the MRA4 had been put in service, they could have (more cheaply) introduced an R2 based on the MRA4...

    same parts logistics, and air crew / technician training... now that's cost effective...

  60. Aggellos


    british engineering is getting a bad name here, it is not the engineering that is at fault just poor choices by the top brass, the sparrow missle = crap , the dart = crap , fibire glass boats and cheap flash protection = dead saliors, the first SA Rifle = make a mistake cleaning it back to factory and jamming bob marley would have been proud off i could go on and on .

    Nimrod where sub hunters, which is absolutely pointless now , russia cant afford to keep many subs going and the one that are out there are likley smuggling if the reports are to be believed.

    our Navy is shit and outdated the falklands higlighted that as well as our weak airforce which could only must 20 planes on a support ship which is not a carrier, no wonder 2 chinese diplomats turned up at No 10 2 weeks after the falklands with a little message " come 1999 we are taking back hong kong by any means"

    my favorite f'up is when they bought the apaches they built custom hangers for them at a huge cost blast proof etc. only to find out with the radar beacon on top they did no fit , so they used the car park beside the base instead and moved the car into the hangars.

    we are moving in the right direction kind with the carriers and new aircraft kind of...

  61. TkH11

    @Conan257 airbus/nimrod

    You say mechanically the Nimrod was an Airbus.

    Uh, no it isn't. The Airbus was mechanically a Nimrod.

    Nimrod was around way before the Airbus was even invented, even before the Airbus company existed; the implication that the Nimrod was copied or inspired by the Airbus can not be true.

    1. ideapete

      Stop scaring us

      You Limeys want to fly Busses get outa here, are they big double decker red ones ?

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    but hang on a sec...

    we can go on for years detailing all the different pros and cons of every platform out there but one thing i dont understand and perhaps one of the reasons we in this mess anyway s this...

    Why oh why are we letting company X bid for a project that cant deliver? I mean, there will obviously be some increases in build costs as problems arise, fluctuations in material costs as markets change. But is it just me that thinks, hang on, this company is 8 years late on a project they said would cost £X (and won contract based on that information) and we're letting them away with it?

    any other sain company out there would have a clause stating something to the effect that for each year your late you will pay us £X and if you delivered an unreasonable bid then thats your problem, resonable changes permitting of course.

    If i say im going to do something for a price then do it but 2 years late and 4 times the cost id lose all credability and likely my job as well!

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @Darren Tuffs

      "If i say im going to do something for a price then do it but 2 years late and 4 times the cost id lose all credability and likely my job as well!"

      You're not familiar with the defense con-tracting business then.

      IIRC (reported in el Reg) the *average* MoD contract is 60% overdue.

      AFAIK the Defense business is the one area where being over budget, over schedule and having produced *nothing* which comes close to meeting its acceptance criteria is not *quite* enough to kill a project.

      Part of this might have to do with the MoD's (and other defense departments) fondness for changing the spec every so often, where had they built a bit of flexibility into the it in the first place, they'd get something working sooner rather than later.

      The fact that decades of UK government policy to build a "National champion" has resulted in a company which is the *only* UK (ish) company that can build the big bits of defense hardware the MoD craves like a crack addict pretty much guarantees 1 bidder on the table and you take their price, because *no* foreign company could *possibly* meet the MoD's *unique* needs for stuff.

      thumbs up because in the real world you're quite right.

  63. Anonymous Coward

    if theres one thing

    MOD desk commandos are good at its pissing away money on over-budget, over-deadline shite.

  64. Davey1000

    Nimrod Capability

    Years ago I heard through the grapevine of just how good the Nimrods were. They were very good indeed at detecting submarines but exactly how it was done is probably still an Official Secret so I'll keep stumm. One thing that is for sure is that a cheap plane and a spotter with a pair of binoculars just won't do it. OK shed-loads of money was invested on an AWAC radar that didn't quite work at first. Instead of flying what was basically an airport radar on top of a jumbo jet (the American proven technology brute force and ignorance approach) several radars were supposed to be married together to give all round visibility like a flies eyes. As one can imagine this was a difficult technical challenge but someone's got to do it! Perhaps future aircraft should be built with a "temporary electronics rack" as gadgets go out of date so fast that they really are temporary. After all the average laptop has more computing power than the "iron" that put man on the moon.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "OK shed-loads of money was invested on an AWAC radar that didn't quite work at first."

      If your referring to the Nimrod AEW that would be about £1bn, about 10% as a profit to GEC.

      " Instead of flying what was basically an airport radar on top of a jumbo jet (the American proven technology brute force and ignorance approach) several radars were supposed to be married together to give all round visibility like a flies eyes. "

      Nimrod AEW's Special Sauce (C Lewis Page)was the use of 2 radar dishes 1 in the nose, 1 in the rear (presumably eliminating the Magnetic Anomaly Detector tail stinger which is a popular feature of MPA's)

      The scanners were synched. Front moves right to left, back moves left to right. Resulting in a complete 360 deg scan.

      They might have looked bug eyed but their optical principles were *nothing* like the optical system of an insect.

      *If* it could be made to work. As others have said the GEC's choice of an in house mini computer was not up to the DSP task in various different ways.

      The details *might* still be classified but the outline is quite well known.

      AFAIK *both* BAE and GEC were prime contractors on this, a situation which meant one could not say to the other "This is how it's got to be to make it work." and this architecture has *never* been attempted before or since.

  65. Tim Jenkins

    Rule Britannia, Britannnia rules the waves

    The previous Nimrod was doing frightfully hush-hush stuff in Afghanistan – but 'hush-hush' isn't the same as 'appropriate' or 'cost effective'

    You've got to admit though; they've done a damn good job at keeping the Taliban Navy from having any serious impact on our operations there...

  66. Hugo CHAV


    I think there are still some Shakleton's kicking around

  67. Graham 25

    Times article ....

    "The nine Nimrod aircraft cancelled at a cost of £4 billion were designed with the same critical safety fault blamed for the downing of an RAF Nimrod in 2006, with the loss of 14 lives"

    anyone with any evidence prepared to confirm/deny ?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  68. Magnus_Pym

    My twopen'oth

    cancelling the Nimrod might have been the right thing to do at the start but cancelling a project right at the end smack of horse that have bolted to me. like if I built my own cutting edge eco house then just on the day of moving in decide to knock it down and call in Wimpey's instead.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    £4bn - just over half the estimated(?) bonuses to be given to the UK banking sector this year, Nimrod never brought this country to it's knees though did it.

    I think we should out-source gov't and have done with it - we might not get what we want but it's bound to be cheaper and those pesky voters won't be able to interfere.

  70. Anonymous Coward

    How many people worked on Nimrod at BAE Systems?

    About 10% of them.

  71. JoeW88
    Thumb Up


    Thanks for enlightening me Mr Page, you've given proper insight into the MRA4, as you usually do with your other defence articles. Unfortunately though, as you may be well aware, a lot of people don't think much about what you write. Personally I don' t think that much about what those sort of people write in regards to UK military matters.

    It seems very apparent lately that we the public, all need enlightening, so please continue, and please try and get yourself a national newspaper column.

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