Royal Air Force Nimrod XV230 was the first Nimrod to enter operational service with the RAF. It was delivered to the Operational Conversion Unit at RAF St Mawgan on 2 October 1969. According to Jane's Information Group, XV230 was one of six Nimrods equipped with an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical turret in 2003. In June/July 2006 XV230 was given the capability to transmit real-time video imagery from the MX-15 to ground stations and commanders. This was implemented under Project Broadsword.
The aircraft is believed to have suffered a leak during midair refuelling while it was monitoring a NATO offensive against Taliban insurgents west of Kandahar. The fuel appears to have leaked into the bomb bay where it caught fire, either as the result of an electrical fault or hot air leaking from a heating pipe.
The pilot reported a fire in his bomb-bay. He tried to reach Kandahar air base, taking the aircraft down from 23,000 ft to 3,000 ft in 90 seconds. An RAF Harrier aircraft followed the Nimrod down and saw a wing explode, followed a few seconds later by the rest of the aircraft.
The crash site was about 25 miles WNW of Kandahar Airfield (which is located 16 kilometers south-east of the city of Kandahar) between two villages called Chil Khor and Fatehullah Qala in the Panjwaye District. Witnesses included local men Abdul Manan and Haji Eisamuddin.
The soldier and marine on board were serving with the Special Reconnaissance Regiment
A board of inquiry was released in December 2007.
On May 23, 2008 the assistant deputy coroner for Oxfordshire, Andrew Walker, handed down a narrative ruling that it had "never been airworthy from the first time it was released to the service nearly 40 years ago".
"It seems to me that this is a case where I would be failing in my duty if I didn't report action to the relevant authority that would prevent future fatalities,"
"I have given the matter considerable thought and I see no alternative but to report to the secretary of state that the Nimrod fleet should not fly until the Alarp [as low as reasonably practicable] standards are met.
There have been concerns in the British media about serviceability of the Nimrod fleet and bereaved families are having to wait for years for the Oxfordshire coroner's office to hold inquests into military deaths. Conservative MP, Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger called for its replacement - the MRA4 - to be introduced quicker. The replacement aircraft has suffered significant problems during the development and construction which has resulted in lengthy programme delays and the in-service date slipping 6 years from 2003 to 2009.
Concerns were again raised when on Monday 5 November 2007, Nimrod XV235 was reported to have suffered a similar fuel leak. The aircraft landed safely. The MoD have since suspended all in-flight refuelling of the Nimrod fleet.
The Scottish National Party's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson has criticised delays in inquiries. He said the wait for the Ministry of Defence inquiry and a coroner's inquest was a "disgrace" that dates have still to be set for the publication of the board of inquiry's findings and a coroner's inquest into the deaths. He was also quoted as saying ''Everybody's thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives. They are having to wait far too long to receive answers to many questions. A 12-month wait is a disgrace - Publication dates have been put back and put back and the Ministry of Defence should get on with it.
On 4 December 2007 the report of the findings of the official Board of Enquiry into the loss of XV230 was published. The Board believed that the No 7 tank dry bay was the most likely location for the seat of the fire, with the most probable cause being escaped fuel contacting a Supplementary Conditioning Pack (SCP) airpipe at 400 degrees Celsius "...after entering a gap between two types of insulation". Four separate factors were listed as contributing to the accident: Age of the aircraft; Maintenance policy; Failure of hazard analysis and lack of a fire detection and suppression system; Not identifying the full implications of successive changes to the fuel system and associated procedures.
Links into the full report on the XV230 accident can be found here
On 23 May 2008, the coroner who led the inquest into these deaths stated that the entire Nimrod fleet had "never been airworthy from the first time it was released to service" and urged that it should be grounded. Assistant deputy coroner for Oxfordshire Andrew Walker added: "This cavalier approach to safety must come to an end. There were failures...[in monitoring the planes' safety]...that should, if the information had been correctly recorded and acted upon, have led to the discovery of this design flaw within the Nimrod fleet.