In 1996, BAE Systems was awarded a £2 billion contract to remanufacturing 21 Nimrod MR2 aircraft into Nimrod MRA4 specification. After serious issues with the programme, the MRA4 was ultimately cancelled in 2010 as a result of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, five years later in 2015 the UK announced its intention to order nine P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
The issues with Nimrod MRA4 aren’t going to be looked at in this article, instead we’re going to take a look at something many are unaware of.
Most don’t know that there were plans to fit bombs and Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Nimrod MRA4, giving the UK a very long range airborne strike capability.
The UK fitted Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Nimrod MRA4 before the aircraft type was, many say rightfully, scrapped. pic.twitter.com/NWGyRdsImC
— UK Defence Journal (@UKDefJournal) February 6, 2021
According to a research paper by C. Harrington in 2006, you can request a copy here, the aircraft was wired up for Storm Shadow missiles as well as guided bombs.
“UK Ministry of Defence has selected BAE Systems to manufacture 12 Nimrod MRA.4 maritime patrol aircraft to replace the Nimrod MR.2 that will cost less than GBP3.8 billion. Three Nimrod MRA.4 development aircraft based at BAE System’s Warton site have already conducted more than 125 trial flights including live link-ups with the Royal Navy destroyers at sea and a deployment at Sicily for hot weather trials.
The first production Nimrod MRA.4 aircraft will be delivered to the RAF in 2009 and all the 12 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by 2012 with three prototype aircraft being converted to production standard towards the end of production run at BAE Systems Woodford plant in Cheshire.
Necessary wiring and other hardware changes have also been incorporated in the Nimrod MRA.4 to carry a range of ordnance that can include the Storm Shadow long range cruise missiles and satellite guided bombs such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition.”
Are there any plans to do this with Poseidon?
In short, no.
Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, asked the following Parliamentary question in 2016:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether the P-8 Poseidon will be capable of carrying UK Storm Shadow and other manufactured munitions.”
Philip Dunne, then Minister for Defence Procurement, responded:
“The Department intends to bring the P-8A into service without significant modification to ensure the delivery of operational capability as soon as is practicable. There are no current plans to integrate Stormshadow or other UK manufactured weapons onto the aircraft.”
The P-8 is capable of conducting anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and shipping interdiction along with an electronic signals intelligence role. This involves carrying torpedoes, depth charges and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The aircraft is able to drop and monitor sonobuoys, not guided bombs.
British P-8 Poseidon aircraft are armed with American weapons, which makes sense given the relatively small fleet the UK will be operating.
Why add costs for a bespoke capability for just 9 aircraft?