WOODFORD, UK --- The first production Nimrod MRA4 has made its maiden flight from the BAE Systems facility at Woodford in Cheshire.
On September 10 the aircraft, designated PA04, flew a successful 1 hour 40 minute sortie during which it performed a variety of manoeuvres to test handling, and the operation of the engines and systems, before arriving at Norwich, where the aircraft will be painted in RAF livery.
Steve Timms, BAE Systems' Managing Director of the Nimrod MRA4 programme said: "It's just wonderful to see this aircraft take to the skies. The MRA4 programme has been through some difficult times in the past, and many people doubted this day would ever come.
"Over the last couple of years, through the hard work and dedication of all those involved, we've really started to build confidence in our ability to deliver this aircraft. It's been a tremendous achievement by the entire team to fly the first production aircraft and shows that the MRA4 programme is on track."
Following the successful first flight, the aircraft will undergo a number of production test flights to prove that all the aircraft systems are working as they should.
PA04 is the first of nine production standard aircraft that is to be built, and one of four that will be delivered to the MRA4s future main operating base at RAF Kinloss before the aircraft is formally declared in service at the end of next year.
PA04 is the fourth MRA4 to fly, joining the three design and development aircraft that have contributed to the flight trials programme, providing the evidence for the formal Release to Service for the platform.
Steve Timms said: "We're just one flight away from completing the test flying needed to provide the initial clearance that will allow the RAF to operate the aircraft, and have agreed the approach to supporting the MRA4 when it enters service, so we are making excellent progress on all fronts.
"The MRA4 will provide the Royal Air Force with at least 30 years of adaptable capability in maritime reconnaissance and attack operations. This is a hugely capable platform with a flexible mission system, excellent and secure communications capability, advanced defensive aids and the potential to carry a whole range of modern weapons."
Equipped with more than 90 antennae and sensors and containing over six million lines of software code, the MRA4 is able to fly 6,000 miles or 14 hours without refuelling and can scan an area the size of the UK every 10 seconds.
BAE Systems is the premier global defence, security and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services. With approximately 105,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded £18.5 billion (US $34.4 billion) in 2008.