RAF operations from 1969
Since 1969 the Harrier has, at various times, equipped
four front-line squadrons of the RAF, an operational conversion unit and
two independent flights. The aircraft has seen operational service in
the Falklands and over the former Yugoslavia, and has more than rewarded
the faith that the RAF has shown in it.
As the longest user of the Harrier the RAF has sponsored
continued improvement in the aircraft, with the GR.1, GR1A, GR.3, GR.5
and GR.7 single-seaters having served, supported by T.2, T.4, T.4A and
T.10 trainers. A total of 118 first generation single-seat and 23 two-seat
Harriers have been followed by 94 second generation single-seaters and
13 trainers - these figures exclude development batch aircraft.
Until the end of the Cold War the RAF's Harrier force
was primarily dedicated to supporting the British Army in Germany, with
a secondary role supporting NATO's northern flank in Norway. Like much
of Britain's armed forces, the 1990s were a period of transition towards
a more flexible peace-keeping and rapid reaction role for the Harriers,
a move that has culminated in the creation of the Joint Force Harrier
in early 2000 to bring all UK Harrier and Sea Harrier operations together
under one umbrella organisation.