Updated - 20/10/10
10/10 - UK Harriers to retire in 2011. The UK is to retire its Harrier GR.7/GR.9 fleet earlier than planned as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in Parliament on Tuesday, 19th October. This will see the entire UK Harrier fleet retired in 2011, many years earlier than previously planned. The exisiting out of service date was due to be 2018. The SDSR states that the RAF has decided to keep a reduced Tornado fleet in operation - cutting the Harrier will allow more money for the Tornado fleet to continue in service.
The SDSR also saw the announcement that HMS Ark Royal is to be retired immediately and that the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers will be without any fixed wing aircraft for several years after they enter service in 2016. The second new aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, will be modified to use catapults and arrestor gear and will enter service in 2020, with HMS Queen Elizabeth being put into mothballs after that date. As hinted at by Defence Secretary Liam Fox in an interview with the BBC on 17th October, the long term aircraft to fulfill the 'Carrier Strike' role, from 2019/2020, will now be the carrier, F-35C, version of the Joint Strike Fighter. Only twelve F-35C's will normally be based on board the aircraft carrier, with additional aircraft from land based units being available to meet surge requirements for up to 36 carrier-borne aircraft. Total UK orders for the JSF therefore look set to fall to around 50. The previous plan was for all 138 UK JSF's to be of the STOVL 'B' variant. The industrial implications of this change, and of the retirement of the Harriers, remain to be seen, but BAE Systems will be issuing a statement on Thursday, 21st October.
These announcements, two days before the 50th anniversary of of the first tethered hover of the P.1127 at Dunsfold on Trafalgar Day, 21st October 1960, therefore mark the beginning of the end of five decades UK Harrier, and V/STOL, experience and operations. For a video overview of the Harrier in UK service, see this Channel 4 News footage.
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06/07 - Falklands War ceremonies. As the culmination
of a number of events to mark the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War a major
event was held in central London on Sunday 17th June. Nine thousand British service
personnel marched in commemoration, and ceremonies were concluded by a flypast
of Royal Navy, RAF and Army Air Corps aircraft and aircrews. Unfortunately no
Harriers or Sea Harriers were present in the flypast (although a number of veteran
Sea Harrier and Harrier pilots flew Hawk aircraft), but this does not detract
from the key role they and their air and ground crews played in the campaign of
1982. However, on 14th June four Harriers from Joint Force Harrier performed a
flypast for HM The Queen, the Prime Minister, families and veterans as part of
a service of thanksgiving at the Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel in Berkshire.
All involved in this website pay tribute to the personnel of
the Sea Harrier and Harrier Squadrons, as well as all other Service personnel
and their families, involved in the liberation of the Falkland Islands in 1982.
For more on the London events, see the BBC
website and for the service of thanksgiving see the Royal
|03/06 - Royal Navy retires Sea Harrier.
28th March marked the last day of operational flying for the Royal Navy's Sea
Harriers with 801 Naval Air Squadron disbanding with a six-ship flypast of RNAS
Yeovilton. The aircraft will now be flown to RAF Shawbury for storage, pending
possible sale to India (see story below). The Royal Navy's last two Harrier T.
Mk.8 aircraft have also been retired, with one of the aircraft being used for
ground handling trials at RNAS Culdrose alongside two Sea Harrier F/A.2s. Two
Fleet Air Arm Squadrons will re-form on the Harrier GR.Mk.7/7A/9/9A alongside
two RAF squadrons on Joint Force Harrier at the end of March.
|02/06 - Indian Navy to acquire Sea Harrier F/A.2s?
Reports indicate that the Indian Navy is negotiating to purchase a number of Royal
Navy Sea Harrier F/A.2 aircraft to bolster their force while current Sea Harrier
FRS.Mk.51 are updated with Israeli Elta EL/M-2032 radars by Hindustan Aeronautics.
The ex-RN aircraft would have their Blue Vixen radars, AMRAAM and other equipment
removed and will be used for training.
|10/05 - RAF Harrier 'destroyed' in Afghanistan.
An RAF Harrier is reported effectively destroyed, and another has been damaged,
in a rocket attack in Afghanistan, it emerged on 15 October. The aircraft were
on the ground at a military airfield at Kandahar in the south of the country when
they were damaged early on the morning of 14 October. First reports of the attack
from the Ministry of Defence made no mention of the damage to the aircraft and
failed to disclose that one of them had been destroyed. The RAF has six Harrier
GR7A jets in Afghanistan, all of them from No 3 (Fighter) Squadron based at RAF
Cottesmore. The aircraft have been based at Kandahar since September last year,
with the detachment expected to continue into 2006, longer than initially expected.
They have been widely used on reconnaissance missions and to help special forces.
One aircraft is being repaired at the airfield and the other has been replaced
by another fighter which flew out from Britain on 14 October.
|09/05 - Pegasus engine production ends.
On 20th September a Harrier GR.MK.7A from the RAF's No.IV Squadron accompanied
a Royal Navy Sea Harrier F/A.2 from 801 Squadron in a flypast of Rolls-Royce's
Filton factory in Bristol to mark the end of Pegasus engine production. The last
engine produced was a Mk.107 for the GR.Mk.7A/9A programme. The Pegasus first
ran in 1959. Pegasus page>>>
|06/05 - Harrier GR7A programme concludes.
BAE Systems’ final clearance for the Harrier GR7A aircraft was completed at the
end of May. The GR7A features an uprated, lower-maintenance Rolls-Royce Pegasus
engine which develops an extra 3,000 lbs thrust above 30 degrees centigrade. This
extra power allows the all-up weight of the aircraft to be increased from 32,000
to 34,000lbs and improves its performance, particularly under hot conditions.
Speaking about the capability of the aircraft Wg Cmdr Gary Waterfall said: “The
programme has improved the capability of the aircraft to the extent that the GR7A
is currently the aircraft of choice for operations in Afghanistan and the Gulf.”
The Design Authority for Production Aircraft (DACPA) 3.3 marks the end of a programme
which has consistently been delivered on time and to cost. GR.9
|03/05 - Royal Navy retires Sea Harrier headquarters
squadron. Four Sea Harriers from 899 Squadron hovered in front of personnel
from the squadron at RNAS Yeovilton for the decommissioning ceremony held on 23
March. The jets performed the Harrier’s trademark bow and a fly past, which also
featured previous aircraft flown by 899 Sqn.(motto ‘strike and defend’) including
a Sea Hawk and Sea Vixen. More than 200 officers have graduated as Sea Harrier
pilots since the squadron stood up for its most recent commission 25 years ago,
including Falklands' legend Nigel ‘Sharkey’ Ward, who attended the paying-off
ceremony. With the Sea Harrier itself being phased out next year, there is no
need to train pilots in the art of flying and fighting the interceptor. Future
RN Harrier pilots will be trained by the Joint Force Harrier at RAF Cottesmore
and Wittering, where they will be trained to fight the Royal Air Force’s GR7 and
GR9 variants of the jump jet. Pictures>>>
|01/05 - New Harrier Support Programme announced
by MoD. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a new aircraft support
programme for its Joint Force Harrier Fleet at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland, that will
reduce costs by £44 million over four years and significantly improve aircraft
availability to the front line. The MoD has replaced four traditional lines of
maintenance with two simplified lines, Forward (Flying Squadrons) and Depth (all
other maintenance) support. Depth support and capability integration work designated
'JUMP' (Joint Upgrade and Maintenance Programme), is centred at its Main Operating
Base at RAF Cottesmore. Harrier Pulse-Line maintenance successfully moves Harrier
GR7 aircraft in a 10-day ’pulse,’ through packaged maintenance activities, similar
to industrial car plant manufacturing processes. Under this approach essential
maintenance will be combined with upgrading the aircraft to the GR9 standard,
which will result in the Harrier remaining in service until the arrival of the
Future Joint Combat Aircraft in the next decade.GR.9
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