Land and sea surveillance, and electronic surveillance, are missions no government can ignore. To keep its capabilities, Great Britain launched a parallel set of efforts to update its Nimrod fleet. One multi-billion pound program sought to upgrade 12 of its unique Nimrod Mk2 maritime patrol aircraft to Nimrod MRA4 status. The other effort, named Project HELIX, sought to keep its related Nimrod R1 electronic and signals intelligence/ relay aircraft fleet flying until 2025.
Both failed. The Nimrod MR2 fleet was retired in 2010, with several almost-complete MRA4s scrapped, leaving Britain with no long-range maritime surveillance aircraft. The first sign of trouble for the Nimrod R1s was an October 2008 DSCA request, conveying Britain’s official $1+ billion request to field 3 RC-135V/W Rivet Joint ELINT/SIGINT aircraft. That, too, became final, and the R1s will now leave service in 2011 – to be replaced by a joint RAF/USAF “Airseeker” program centered on the RC-135W Rivet Joint.