Updated - 01/06/04
|04/04 - Royal Navy retires first Sea Harrier
F/A.2 squadron. On 31st March 800 Naval Air Squadron stood down as a Sea Harrier
F/A.2 unit. Its commanding officer, Cdr Paul Stone, flew his Sea Harrier, resplendent
in a special red livery, to commemorate the end of the Sea Harrier's service with
the squadron during a number of events throughout March. However, a flypast of
the unit’s ‘mother ship’, HMS Ark Royal, was cancelled due to bad weather. The
withdrawal of the Sea Harrier ends 24 years of the aircraft's service with the
squadron in its two guises, the F/A.2 and FRS.1, the latter last flown in 1995.
The Sea Harrier will continue to serve the Fleet Air Arm until 899 NAS, the training
unit, and front-line sister squadron 801 NAS pay off in March 2005 and March 2006
respectively. Some of 800 Naval Air Squadron's aircraft will be passed on to the
other units, although a number are to be scrapped. 800 NAS, formed in 1933 and
the Fleet Air Arm's oldest fighter squadron, is expected to re-form as a Harrier
GR.9 unit in 2006, alongside two RAF GR.9 squadrons and one other Royal Navy one.
|01/04 - BAE Systems awarded £100 million
Harrier GR.9 contract. The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded BAE Systems
a contract (known as Capability C2 ) worth about £100 million for the continuation
of the £500m-plus Harrier GR9 sustainment and upgrade programme. Under Capability
C2 a number of systems will be integrated onto the GR9, linked by a new on-board
computer. These include the Precision Guided Bomb (a contract for this was awarded
to Raytheon in December 2003) and infra-red & television variants of the Maverick
missile. Also included is the Successor Identification Friend or Foe (SIFF) system,
which will make the aircraft less vulnerable in an operational environment.GR.9
|12/03 - Final Harrier delivered to Spain.
The Spanish Navy took delivery on 5th December of its final remanufactured Harrier
II+. The fifth such aircraft received by the service, this delivery also marks
the end of Harrier II production by Boeing. The only remaining work on new variants
of the Harrier is now the upgrade of RAF Harriers to GR.9/9A standard.
|11/03 - RAF receives first Harrier GR.7A.
The first three Harrier GR.7A aircraft were received by the Royal Air Force in
late October, although the formal handover was not expected until November. The
first deployment of the type is due in exercise 'Hairy Funnel' on board HMS Invincible
during the second half of November. Equipped with more powerful Rolls-Royce Pegasus
Mk.107 engines, the Harrier GR.7A offers improved performance in jet-borne flight,
especially in 'hot and high' conditions. The RAF is due to receive 20 of the variant,
although all will eventually be updated to GR.9A standard with improved avionics
and other systems. GR.9
|10/03 - Final USMC AV-8B delivered. The
final AV-8B+ Harrier was delivered by Boeing chief production test pilot Jack
Jackson to VMA-231 'Ace of Spades' at Cherry Point on September 30th. The aircraft
was welcomed with a ceremony on the flight line in front of the squadron's hangar.
The aircraft is the 360th new or re-manufactured Harrier that Boeing/McDonnell
Douglas have delivered to the Marines since December 1983. Jackson, a 5,500 hour
veteran of the Harrier, said at the ceremony "It was a great run with the
Harrier, I'm going to miss it." The AV-8B is due to be replaced by the F-35B Joint
Strike Fighter, with full phase-out due around 2018. Picture
|08/03 - RAF Harriers in Operation Telic.
During the recent Second Gulf War Nos. 1(F) and IV(AC) Squadrons deployed
Harrier GR.7 aircraft to Ahmed Al Jaber airbase in Kuwait, flying alongside US
Marine Corps AV-8Bs (and USMC F-18Ds, USAF F-16s and ANG A-10s). Elements of No.
3(F) Squadron also deployed in theatre, part of the United Kingdom's contribution
to the coalition, named Operation Telic. A variety of weapons were used, including
AGM-65D2D Mavericks, Paveway II and GPS-equipped Enhanced Paveway laser-guided
bombs, against both fixed and mobile targets. Target designation was by one or
more of an attack formation using the BAE TIALD pod. Many missions involved air-to-air
refuelling. The accuracy of the Harriers’ attacks was considered good, the Enhanced
Paveway bomb proving more effective than the US JDAM. The intensity of the effort
made by the RAF Harrier force can be gauged from that of No. 3(F) Squadron, which
deployed eight aircraft. During the 21.5 days of the main campaign over 1000 hours
of combat flying time were accumulated - in effect 2 aircraft were kept airborne
24 hours a day during this period. During peacetime such a force would be expected
to fly about 150 hours in such a period of time.
05/03 - Harrier T.Mk.4(I) first flight. The first of
two Harrier T.Mk.4(I) trainer aircraft for the Indian Navy, IN656, made its first
flight from INS (Indian Naval Station) Hansa, Goa, India on 14 May. The aircraft,
flown by BAE SYSTEMS Test Pilot Simon Hargreaves and Flight Test Engineer Steve
Potton, flew for 20 minutes. The Harrier T.Mk.4(I) programme comprises the modification
of two former RAF Harrier T.Mk.4 aircraft to an Indian Navy configuration, including
the installation of Sea Harrier FRS.Mk.51 navigation and cockpit equipment. Following
contract signature in 1997, work started at Dunsfold, then moved to RNAS Yeovilton
where a BAE SYSTEMS Contractor Working Party continued to work on the aircraft
until mid-2002. Following a brief period of work at Warton, the aircraft were
flown to INS Hansa in an Antonov freighter in September 2002, where installation
of the engines and avionics systems, plus final assembly and test, has taken place.
The Harrier T.Mk.4(I) will restore Harrier training capability to the Indian Navy
following the loss of two of their Harrier T.Mk.60 aircraft. The second Harrier
T.Mk.4(I), IN655, is scheduled to fly within the next few weeks, and delivery
of the aircraft to the Indian Navy is planned for mid Summer. Picture
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|05/03 - First Harrier GR.9 flies. The first
Harrier GR.9 successfully completed its maiden flight from Warton aerodrome on
30th May. The aircraft took off conventionally at 1449 hours and made a flight
lasting 1 hour 10 minutes which included a short hover. The development aircraft
(ZD320), flown by BAE SYSTEMS Harrier test pilot John Lawson, is equipped with
new avionic system equipment and latest generation mission software. It will now
enter a comprehensive test programme to further develop the new systems and fully
realise the potential of the new weapons and sensors being introduced in a phased
series of capability releases over the next five years. The first capability will
be released to the customer by BAE SYSTEMS in November 2004. Pilot John Lawson
said, ‘During today’s flight, the new avionics worked faultlessly. This gives
us a strong basis to develop the new capabilities and provide the RAF with an
aircraft that will continue to support deep-strike operations well into the next
|04/03 - Thailand to buy Sea Harriers? The
Royal Thai Navy is reported to be considering a purchase of a number of the UK
Royal Navy's Sea Harrier F/A.2s. The aircraft are scheduled to be withdrawn from
UK service in 2004-06. Thailand currently operates 9 ex-Spanish Navy AV-8S Harriers.
These are scheduled to receive a mid-life update later this decade and the extent
and cost of this will influence any decision on a Sea Harrier purchase. If this
goes ahead the number required will depend on the condition of the former British
aircraft and the terms of any deal to be struck - a barter arrangement with BAE
Systems is expected to form the basis of any purchase.
|01/03 - UK aircraft carrier decision announced.
BAE Systems and Thales UK are to work in partnership to design and build two new
aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, which will each operate up to 45 F-35B STOVL
fighters. Following detailed analysis of their proposals by the MoD particular
strengths were identified in each. The partnership is to be led by BAE Systems
as the Prime Contractor, responsible for project and shipbuilding management,
while Thales UK would be the Key Supplier for the whole ship design. Work will
now be carried through to Spring 2004, when the final investment decision for
the programme is scheduled to occur. It is currently envisaged that building work
for the two carriers would involve four shipyards: BAE Systems at Govan, Vosper
Thornycroft at Portsmouth, Swan Hunter on Tyneside and Babcock BES at Rosyth.
Other shipyards may become involved in due course, while Rolls-Royce is expected
to provide the engines. The vessels are due to enter service in 2012 and 2015.
|01/03 - Harrier GR.9/T.12 upgrade contract awarded.
BAE Systems has been awarded a £150 million contract to continue the RAF's
Harrier GR.9 and T.12 upgrade programme. Engineering design will take place at
Farnborough with development and flight test based at Warton. Additional contracts
are expected to bring the total programme value up to £500 million over
the next few years. Operational release is expected in 2006. GR.9
|01/03 - USMC defends AV-8B safety recorde.
Criticism has been levelled at the Harrier in several US newspapers lately. The
aircraft is held to be dangerous to fly and to be lacking in supersonic capability,
stealth and range. The House Armed Services Committee chairman, Rep. Duncan Hunter,
has promised “robust hearings" into the Harrier. In Stars and Stripes, USMC
pilot crews have sought to allay such fears. See
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