Following over 30 years of service, the last flight of the Nimrod MR2 fleet has taken place today, Thursday 31 March 2010.

The Nimrod MR2 marked its last operational flight with a flypast of airfields in the north of Scotland before the fleet is retired.

Over the last few days, MR2s have visited some of the air bases that have helped form its history, such as the former RAF St Mawgan (now Newquay International Airport) and in Guernsey, to mark 201’s Squadron’s affiliation with the Island.

An ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) asset, the Nimrod MR2 Force has been tasked to perform a wide variety of roles in support of the UK’s defence.

They have had the capability to conduct surveillance over land and sea, anti-submarine attack and search and rescue.

On Friday 26 March 2010, VIPs, RAF personnel, their families and a number of veterans attended an event at RAF Kinloss to mark the last days of the aircraft.

Attendees had the opportunity to look round a Nimrod aircraft and tour some exhibitions covering the operational role of the MR2 over its last 31 years.

A short parade of the Squadron Standards followed, and a valediction which was given by Air Officer Commanding 2 Group, Air Vice Marshal Steve Hillier. The highlight of the event was the formation flypast of two Nimrods.

RAF Kinloss is part of No 2 Group, Air Command, RAF. The Station has been the permanent main operating base for the RAF Nimrod MR2 Force of 11 aircraft operated by crews from Nos 120 and 201 Squadrons.

The MR2 is due to be replaced by nine MRA4 aircraft, the first of which is expected in spring 2010.

RAF Kinloss Station Commander, Group Captain Robbie Noel, said:

“We are clearly sorry to see the Nimrod MR2 retire but today is an opportunity to reflect on the marvellous contribution to national security made by the Maritime Patrol Force.

“The Nimrod has been involved in every major conflict in the last 40 years as well as protecting the UK’s shores and supporting those working at sea through its Search and Rescue role.

“Much of our work has necessarily been shrouded in secrecy, but it is with great pride, affection and confidence that we say farewell to this version of ‘The Mighty Hunter’.

“It is essential, also, that we pay tribute to those who have lost their lives while serving on and with this Force; we remember them vividly, and they continue to inspire our efforts.

“Equally, it is important to recognise the endeavours of the great swathes of personnel who have supported the Force: the Servicemen and women, their families, Civil Servants, our partners in Industry, and, of course, our fabulous local community.

“Having amassed over 3,000 flying hours on this aircraft, I will certainly miss the MR2 but look forward, as we all do at Kinloss, to the arrival of MRA4 in the next few months.

“The new version of ‘The Mighty Hunter’ is a huge leap forward, and I am particularly excited to be introducing it to Kinloss in the very near future.”

Yorkshire Air Museum near Elvington is the first museum to buy a Nimrod for its collection and will be taking delivery on 13 April 2010 and thereafter there are plans to put Nimrods in other museums.

From April, Aircrew selected to be MRA4 Instructors will move to number 42 (Reserve) Squadron, the training Squadron.

Those selected as future front line MRA4 aircrew will be posted to 201 Squadron and 120 Squadron where a training package is being developed to deliver a range of MRA4 training and development activities.

Around 50 aircrew who will not be transferring to the MRA4 will be posted to other units around the RAF.

Ground crew not already transferred to the MRA4 Maintenance Section have been canvassed on their preferences for new postings and where possible these aspirations will be met.