Nimrod flies to Gib on farewell flight

A Nimrod MR2 from 42 (Reserve) Squadron, RAF Kinloss, will make its final visit to the Rock this weekend prior to all eleven MR2 aircraft being taken out of service at the end of this month. But its successor, the Nimrod MRA4, should start making welcome visits from 2012.

But the ‘Mighty Hunter’ is committed to operational service up till its last day in service and this weekend’s visit to Gibraltar is being combined with missions in support of NATO’s Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR.

The aircraft has been an Anti Submarine and Maritime Reconnaissance asset for the full 40 years of its life and, as Gibraltar was a key operating base throughout many of those years, it was felt inappropriate to retire the Nimrod without paying one final visit to the Rock.

In addition to the Nimrod’s role as a surveillance and reconnaissance platform, an MR2 is always on 24/7 support to the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre, which is also based at Kinloss. The aircraft’s Search and Rescue (SAR) tasks include long-range search and shepherd, assistance to SAR helicopters and the co-ordination of search activities as the On-Scene Commander at major incidents. The aircraft routinely operates over the sea down to 200 feet but is limited to 300 feet at night or during bad weather. It can fly for around nine hours without the need to refuel.

Nimrods were invaluable during the Falklands Conflict in 1982 and they have provided a continual presence in the Middle East since 2001. Until 2009, almost 60% of the aircraft’s tasks were conducted on operations and, due to the varied nature of these tasks, much of the crews’ year is spent at a very high state of readiness.

Although this will be the last visit to Gibraltar by the Nimrod MR2, its successor, Nimrod MRA4 is due to enter service in 2012 when perhaps a new ‘Mighty Hunter’ will be stalking the Strait again.