Inside a Nimrod R1 spy plane (picture essay)

Last week I went up to the RAF Museum at RAF Cosford in Shrophire and got the chance to go inside the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod R1, a Cold War-era reconnaissance and electronic intelligence gathering spyplane.

The original design was based on the de Havilland Comet airliner. Two Comets were converted as prototypes. The MR1 version of Nimrod was remarkable in that it entered service ahead of schedule and on budget.

In its maritime patrol form, Nimrod was equipped with a range of sensors including sonar, radar, electronic support measures and magnetic anomaly detection. It could travel to and from its operating area more quickly than propellor driven predecessors. It had a central tactical computer that relayed the output from the various sensors and automatically plotted them in a large display screen.

Three Nimrod aircraft were modified for intelligence gathering. These were given the designation R1. They were equipped to intercept electronic communications and radar transmissions. Their role was sufficiently sensitive that it was not officially acknowledged until after the end of the Cold War.

This aircraft first went into service as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft, but was converted to the Electronic Intelligence Gathering role after one of the other reconnaissance aircraft was lost in an accident.

The Nimrod’s successor, the MRA4, suffered a number of major delays before finally being abandoned.