On 16 May 1995, one of Britain's Nimrod R.1 sigint collection aircraft (XW666) was forced to ditch in the Moray Firth after its No.4 engine encountered a major mechanical failure. This, in turn, caused a turbine blade to puncture one of the fuel tanks and a major fire resulted which threatened to burn through the wing.
Flight Lieutenant Art Stacey managed to ditch the aircraft in the Moray Firth before the wing structure burnt through. His skilful flying allowed all seven crew members to transfer to dinghies before being picked up by a Sea King helicopter for RAF Lossiemouth. The subsequent Board of Inquiry recommend various improvements to the Nimrod fleet to reduce fire risk, but these were not undertaken.
In 1995, Britain's fleet of three Nimrod R.1 sigint aircraft had been stretched by the task of monitoring the conflict in the Former Yugoslavia. A replacement aircraft was badly needed. This was obtained by modifying a standard maritime Nimrod (XV249) to R.1 standard. The complex business of fitting out the sigint equipment took more than a year.