Nimrod Crash Report Stirs Renewed Defense Funding Debate in UK

 - December 17, 2007, 12:20 PM

The crash of a UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Nimrod MR.2 surveillance aircraft in Afghanistan last year that killed all 14 onboard was likely caused by escaped fuel from a pressure-relief valve igniting against an improperly insulated hot bleed-air pipe in the starboard wing root. So says the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), which took the unusual step of releasing the entire report of the accident inquiry. The British government has been heavily criticized for failing to provide enough modern equipment to British forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the explosion aboard the 40-year-old Nimrod was not directly attributable to the age of the aircraft, although leakage through aging fuel seals could not be ruled out. The MoD accepted responsibility for misjudging safety aspects of the Nimrod fuel and bleed-air systems over a long period. Opposition politicians blamed the government for not replacing the Nimrods by now, which has been complicated by delays at BAE Systems. In 1996, the company signed a contract to deliver extensively refurbished Nimrod MRA.4 versions from 2003. BAE ran into technical difficulties, and pleaded for a renegotiation of the fixed-price deal. The first new Nimrod is not due for delivery until 2010.