By Max Clarke

Britain’s fleet of Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft are being scrapped as part of the Government’s spending review.

Developed and introduced in the late 1960s as a maritime support craft, a £2bn contract to upgrade the fleet of 40 tonne Nimrods into electronic intelligence gathering craft was awarded to BAE systems in 1996.

The craft have previously been at the focus of the national media when, in September 2006, a faulty air duct caused an explosion over the skies of Afghanistan- destroying the craft and killing all 14 crew members.

A contractor working for the Ministry of Defence began decommissioning the Nimrods last night (26 January) at a site owned by BAE Systems at Woodford in Stockport.

When asked about the dismantling of the fleet, BAE Systems commented:

"Disposal of the Nimrod MRA4 airframes which are located at Woodford and Warton is the responsibility of the UK MoD as they own them. We can confirm that they have appointed specialist contractors Metal and Waste Recycling Ltd and Hill Demolition and Dismantling to carry out this work which has now started."

Bernie Hamilton, National Officer of Unite, Britain’s largest union also commented on the MoD decision, saying:

"The lunatics have taken over the asylum when the government orders the Ministry of Defence to break up £4 billion worth of world-class defence equipment.

"The decision to scrap the Nimrod leaves a huge gap in the UK's defence capability and is a betrayal of the workers that played a part in its manufacture."