Popular Spy Plane Tours Set to Return at RAF Museum Cosford

Two Nimrod R1s of 51 Squadron, based at RAF Waddington, pictured flying in formation when still wearing their "hemp" camouflage. XV249 is quite possibly pictured here. (photo via Wikipedia)
One of the three Nimrod R1s which served in the RAF coming in to land at RAF Waddington in 2010. (photo by Dan Davison via Wikipedia)
One of the four Nimrod R.1s which served in the RAF coming in to land at RAF Waddington in 2010. (photo by Dan Davison via Wikipedia)

The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod played an important role defending the realm in the United Kingdom, and served in several major conflicts over the years. The Nimrod MR (Maritime Reconnaissance) aircraft were a mainstay in the RAF fleet over four decades, patrolling the waters for submarines and other potential threats. Far less well known were were the handful of Nimrod R.1 aircraft, modified for the highly secret role of electronics intelligence gathering, or ELINT.   The Nimrod R1 was a highly effective platform and served in several major conflicts, including both Gulf Wars, and Afghanistan. The aircraft finally retired in 2011, and one of the two surviving airframes is on show at the RAF Museum in Cosford.

The RAF Museum offered a rare glimpse inside the spy plane over the summer, and such was the popularity of the exhibit that they have again decided to open the aircraft up for a brief period of tours this autumn. The aircraft will be open between 10am and 1pm for the following dates:  October 24th thru November 1st and November 9th thru 14th, 2015. Tours will last fifteen minutes and cost £5 per person.

The Nimrod MR1 open for tours. (photo via RAFM)
The Nimrod R.1 open for tours. (photo via RAFM)

The RAF Museum press release continues…

Visitors during October half term and the Conservation Centre Open Week in November will have the opportunity to climb on board the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod R.1 XV249 and learn about its intelligence gathering role in the Royal Air Force. Intimate tours for groups of up to six people last approximately 15 minutes and visitors will learn about the history of the aircraft, hear about the crews on board and view some of its sophisticated surveillance equipment up close. Plus, tour guides will be on hand to answer any questions.

Find out why this aircraft and its missions were so secret that even the existence of 51 Squadron who operated it wasn’t mentioned in official documents until 1992, after the end of the Cold War. Learn why, of the twenty six mission specialists on board, up to eight of them were language specialists and how the equipment on board allowed them to pass tactical, minute by minute information to allied aircraft during a raid. The aircrafts capabilities were such that even flying through friendly and allied nation airspace required diplomatic clearance. Mixed with a few light hearted stories of the crew on board the Nimrod, these fascinating tours led by Museum staff will have visitors wondering what really goes on in the skies above us.

RAF Museum Public Relations Executive Michelle Morgans said:

“We ran Nimrod tours during an initial trial period in July and following really positive feedback from visitors we extended them throughout the summer. The demand to have access on board our aircraft is always high and almost every tour sold out. Those who missed out in the summer have been asking when the Nimrod will re-open so we have added new dates, giving visitors two more opportunities this year to enjoy an intimate tour of one of our most sophisticated aircraft.”

The Nimrod flew in both the Maritime patrol and electronic intelligence gathering role. Maritime surveillance, anti-submarine operations and intelligence gathering have been key tasks for the Royal Air Force for much of its long history. When the Nimrod was finally retired from service in 2011, the type had operated with distinction for over forty years in all these roles, and more.

Nimrod R.1 XV249 is one of only four R.1’s from a total of 46 Nimrod’s delivered to the RAF. The R.1 was an electronic-intelligence gathering variant, three of which originally entered service with the RAF in 1971. They carried up to 29 crew members and were involved in several major conflicts in the latter part of the 20th and early 21st centuries. When an original R.1 aircraft was lost following an accident in 1997, XV249 was selected as a replacement and, after conversion, served with No 51 Squadron from RAF Waddington. The aircraft amassed over 18,000 flying hours during its service life and took part in operation Ellamy over Libya in 2011, thus remaining operational until its withdrawal from squadron service on 28 June 2011.

Two Nimrod R1s of 51 Squadron, based at RAF Waddington, pictured flying in formation when still wearing their "hemp" camouflage. XV249 is quite possibly pictured here. (photo via Wikipedia)
Two Nimrod R1s of 51 Squadron, based at RAF Waddington, pictured flying in formation when still wearing their “hemp” camouflage. XV249 is quite possibly pictured here. (photo via Wikipedia)

Nimrod Tours are available daily throughout October half term week (24 October – 1 November) and during the Conservation Centre Open Week (9-14 November) 2015. Tickets cost £5.00 per person and tours last 15 minutes (max 6 people per tour). As the number of people per tour is limited, organisers are advising any interested visitors to pre-book their time-slot now via the Museum’s website www.rafmuseum.org/cosford. All children must be accompanied by an adult, tours are not recommended for children under the age of 5.

For further information please call the Museum on 01902 376200. The Museum is open daily from 10am and entry to the Museum is FREE of charge.

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