The Hawker Siddeley BAe Harrier - Mond Aviation Shop

The Hawker Siddeley BAe Harrier

Developed initially as an operational, close-support, and reconnaissance fighter aircraft, the Harrier evolved directly from the Hawker P.1127 and the subsequent Hawker Kestrel F.G.A.1 prototype aircraft.
During 1965, Hawker Siddeley's supersonic aircraft (Hawker P.1154) had been canceled by the incoming Labour government and so all work at Kingston had ceased.  The Ministry then issued Requirement ASR384 for a V/STOL Ground attack Aircraft, supplemented by an immediate order for 6 pre-production developments of the Kestrel.  These were to be known as the Hawker P.1127 RAF. The design was more closely based on the lessons learned with the early Hawker Kestrel prototypes and following successful trials, the first aircraft flew on 31st August 1966. 
Within a year, the RAF ordered 60 aircraft into production, all to be named Hawker Harrier GR.1.
The first RAF Squadron to be equipped with the Hawker Harrier GR.1 was RAF No.1 Squadron at RAF Wittering, who when they received their aircraft in April 1969, signaled the beginning of over four decades of RAF Service.
A demonstration of the Hawker Harrier's capabilities was exhibited in May 1969, when two aircraft took part in the Daily Mail Transatlantic Air Race, flying between St Pancras Railway Station in London and Downtown Manhattan in the USA (with the use of air-to-air refueling). The Hawker Harrier completed the journey in just 6 hours and 11 minutes.
The Hawker Harrier would then go on to serve with distinction with UK military forces, and with several nations worldwide, especially as a carrier-based aircraft. In service with the RAF, the Hawker Harrier was strategically positioned throughout Europe with the bulk of the fleet stationed in West Germany, to defend against a potential invasion of Western Europe by the Warsaw Pact forces.
The Hawker Harrier’s unique abilities allowed the RAF to disperse forces away from vulnerable airbases, often hidden in wooded areas, whilst on exercises or genuine deployment. Additionally, Hawker Harrier Squadrons saw several deployments overseas demonstrating the aircraft’s ability to operate with minimal ground facilities. Its ability to utilize short runways allowed its use at locations not available to conventional fixed-wing military aircraft and brought a completely new dimension to battle planning.

British Aerospace Harrier II / McDonnell Douglas AV8-B

During the 1980s, the Hawker Harrier saw further development as a joint-venture between British Aerospace at Dunsfold & Kingston and the McDonnell Douglas Corporation in the USA. 
The aircraft featured an elevated cockpit for better all-round visibility, revised engine intakes, and exhausts, together with much-improved avionics.  By far, the most significant improvement was the use of composites in the one-piece wing, which reduced the overall weight whilst increasing the payload capacity.
The U.S. Marine Corps used their Harriers (known as AV-8B Harrier II) primarily for 'Day and Night Close-Air Support' operations. In the UK, the RAF took delivery of Hawker Harrier II GR5, GR7, GR7a, GR9, and GR9a variants featuring increased thrust, improved avionics, and increased weapons capability.

British Aerospace Sea Harrier

The British Aerospace (BAe) Sea Harrier was informally known as the ‘Shar’. It was a naval short take-off / vertical landing / vertical take-off jet fighter, predominantly used in a reconnaissance or attack aircraft role. 
Previously in 1963, the Hawker Siddeley P1127 had landed on HMS Ark Royal and it was some 15-years later that the specifically designed ‘Navalised-Harrier’ prototype, finally took to the air over Dunsfold on 20th August 1978.
Utilizing the vectored-thrust technology developed during the 1960s as part of the P1127 / Kestrel / Harrier program, the BAe Sea Harrier provided a unique vertical short take-off/landing (V/STOL) capability whilst operating from aircraft carriers at sea.
The Royal Navy had already pre-ordered 24 aircraft, based on the results being achieved by the RAF with the Hawker Harrier GR1. By the time of the first flight, this order had been increased to 34 aircraft. 
The BAe Sea Harrier FRS1 entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980, during an era in which most naval and land-based air superiority fighters were large and supersonic. The principal role of the subsonic BAe Sea Harrier was to provide air defense for naval aircraft carriers and surface ships around the world.
The BAe Sea Harrier saw service distinction during the Falklands Conflict of 1982, as well as during both the Gulf Wars (1990-1991 & 2003-2011) the Balkans conflict, and Sierra Leone.  On all occasions, the Sea Harriers mainly operated from aircraft carriers positioned within the conflict zones. 
The usage in the Falklands was probably the most high profile and important success recorded by the aircraft 'in theatre' where it was the only fixed-wing fighter available to protect the British Task Force.  Flying off of HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes, the BAe Sea Harriers defeated 20 enemy aircraft during the encounter, with just one being lost to enemy ground fire.
Despite a vigorous marketing campaign by British Aerospace, the BAe Sea Harrier only saw customer sales to India, despite enormous interest from the military authorities of both Argentina and Australia.
In 1993, an updated version was developed for the Royal Navy (Sea Harrier FA2) featuring a more powerful engine, much-improved weapon systems, and enhanced air-to-air capabilities. Despite this, the aircraft was said to be outdated and manufacturing of the BAe Sea Harrier ceased in 1998, with the last aircraft retiring from Royal Naval service in 2006.

The end of an era

Sadly, the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) of July 1998, was to signal the end of the UK’s military involvement with the much-loved Hawker / Bae Harrier. This along with the subsequent ‘early retirement’ of the Royal Navy BAe Sea Harriers (between 2004 and 2006) saw all remaining aircraft consolidated by the RAF into ‘The Harrier Force’. This was a short-lived program, however, and it was superseded by yet another Strategic Defence Review published on 19th October 2010. This announced ‘the early retirement’ of the Harrier Force aircraft (Harrier GR7s & GR9s). 

On 15th December 2010, a 16 aircraft flypast from RAF Cottesmore and Ceremonial ‘Walk of Honour’ marked the last operational flights of British Harriers, ending 41-years of service.
In the UK, the aircraft was officially withdrawn from UK military service by the RAF in March 2011.
Over 100 AV-B aircraft are still owned and operated by the US Marine Corps and these are supported not only by the BAE Systems Team at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina but also by Teams at Warton, Samlesburyand Frimley,  in the UK.
Working in close collaboration with McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing, it is thought that this program will continue well into the late 2020s.
In addition, several EAV-8B Matador Aircraft still operate in the Spanish Air Force.
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