Nimrod XV230 at RAF Waddington in July 2005
The RAF's Nimrod XV230 was the first of thirth-eight Nimrod MR2 reconnaissance aircraft to enter service and had been flying since 2 October 1969. Its main role was anti-submarine warfare and its presence over Afghanistan may, at first sight, seem puzzling. The arrival of maritime reconnaissance aircraft reflected that fact that the Ministry of Defence had previously purchased poor quality UAVs (drones) that had performed badly in the extreme heat of Iraq and would not operate at all at the high altitudes to be found in Afghanistan.
The Maritime Nimrods were deployed to fill the gap. In 2003, XV230 was one of six Nimrods equipped with an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical turret designed to capture video imagery. In the summer of 2006, XV230 was given the added capability to transmit real-time video imagery from the MX-15 to ground stations and commanders. This was implemented under Project Broadsword.
XV230 crashed in Afghanistan on 2 September 2006, killing 14 military personnel in Britain's worst single loss since the Falklands War. The dead included two signallers, one attached to the SBS, (SBS Signals Squadron) and the other to the SFSG (268 (SFSG) Signals Squadron). The Nimrod was supporting Operation Medusa, a major NATO offensive against the Taliban, which included UK Special Forces on the ground.
Subsequent inquiries identified both fundamental design faults that has exisited since the 1960s and also poor maintenance resulting from cost-cutting and negligence by senior officers. In March 2009, the Ministry of Defence admitted responsibility for the deaths of the 14 servicemen aboard Nimrod aircraft XV230.