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This is where you can find all the latest developments in the Harrier/STOVL world. Using both official and media based sources we ensure you are kept fully up-to-date.

The news items below are those from 2003-2004 that no longer feature on the main News page.


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. Pictures>>>
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 page>>>
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 page>>>
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 1>>> Picture 2>>>
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 1>>> Picture 2>>>

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 decade.’ Picture>>> GR.9 page>>>
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 page>>>.
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 full article>>>.
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