Harrier Jump Jet
The Harrier, informally referred to as the Harrier Jump Jet, is a family of jet-powered attack aircraft capable of vertical/short takeoff and landing operations (V/STOL). Named after a bird of prey, it was originally developed by British manufacturer Hawker Siddeley in the 1960s. The Harrier emerged as the only truly successful V/STOL design of the many attempted during that era, despite being a subsonic aircraft, unlike most of its competitors. It was conceived to operate from improvised bases, such as car parks or forest clearings, without requiring large and vulnerable air bases. Later, the design was adapted for use from aircraft carriers.
|Harrier Jump Jet|
|A Harrier II in hover with downward jet exhaust|
|Role||V/STOL strike aircraft|
|National origin||United Kingdom|
|Manufacturer||Hawker Siddeley |
British Aerospace / McDonnell Douglas
Boeing / BAE Systems
|First flight||28 December 1967|
|Primary users||United States Marine Corps|
Royal Air Force (retired)
Royal Navy (retired)
Indian Navy (retired)
|Developed from||Hawker P.1127|
|Variants||Hawker Siddeley Harrier |
British Aerospace Sea Harrier
McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II
British Aerospace Harrier II
There are two generations and four main variants of the Harrier family, developed by both UK and US manufacturers:
The Hawker Siddeley Harrier is the first generation-version and is also known as the AV-8A Harrier; it was used by multiple air forces, including the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Marine Corps (USMC). The Sea Harrier is a naval strike/air defence fighter derived from the Hawker Siddeley Harrier; it was operated by both the Royal Navy and the Indian Navy. During the 1980s, a second generation Harrier emerged; manufactured in the United States as the AV-8B and in Britain as the British Aerospace Harrier II respectively. By the start of the 21st century, the majority of the first generation Harriers had been withdrawn, many operators having chosen to procure the second generation as a replacement. In the long term, several operators have announced their intention to supplement or replace their Harrier fleets with the STOVL variant of the F-35 Lightning II, designated as the F-35B.
Throughout the 1950s, particularly in the years following the Korean War, a number of aircraft companies in both Europe and America separately decided to investigate the prospective capabilities and viability of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, which would eliminate the requirement for vulnerable runways by taking off and landing vertically as opposed to the conventional horizontal approach. In addition to military applications, the prospect of applying such technology to commercial airliners was also viewed with considerable interest by the mid 1950s, thus the value of developing viable vertical take-off systems was judged to be substantial. However, during this era, few companies envisioned that a VTOL aircraft could also be compatible with the characteristics of high performance military aircraft.
During 1957, following an approach by the British aero engine manufacturer Bristol Engine Company, who were designing an innovative vectored thrust engine, British aviation conglomerate Hawker Aircraft developed their design for an aeroplane that could meet an existing NATO specification calling for a "Light Tactical Support Fighter". Bristol's projected vectored thrust engine, which received the name Pegasus, harnessed rotatable cold jets which were positioned on either side of the compressor along with a 'hot' jet which was directed via a conventional central tailpipe; this concept had originated from Michel Wibault, a French aviation consultant. Throughout much of the early development work, there was no financial support for the project from HM Treasury; however, support for the engine development portion of the effort was sourced via NATO's Mutual Weapon Development Program (MWDP).
Senior project engineer Ralph Hooper at Hawker promptly set about establishing an initial layout for a theoretical aircraft to take advantage of the Pegasus engine, using data provided by Bristol. During March 1959, the newly merged Hawker Siddeley decided to privately fund a pair of prototypes of the design, which had received the internal company designation of P.1127, to demonstrate the design's capabilities. During the 1960s, the P.1127 attracted the attention of the RAF; this would eventually result in the development and issuing of Requirement ASR 384, which sought a V/STOL aircraft for ground attack operations. During late 1965, the RAF placed an order for six pre-production P.1127 (RAF) aircraft.
Requirements and emergence
Around the same time as the RAF's interest in the concept, NATO proceeded to develop their own specification, NBMR-3, which called for a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft; specific requirements included the expectation for the performance of such an aircraft to be equivalent to the conventional McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter. Specifications called for a supersonic V/STOL strike fighter with a combat radius of 460 kilometres (250 nmi), a cruise speed of Mach 0.92, and a dash speed of Mach 1.5. During the early 1960s, Hawker commenced work upon developing a supersonic version of the P.1127, designated as the P.1150, culminating in the abortive Hawker P.1154. NBMR.3 also attracted ten other contenders, among which was P.1154's principal competitor, the Dassault Mirage IIIV. The P.1154 was ultimately selected to meet NBMR-3; however, this did not lead to orders being placed.
On 6 December 1961, prior to the design being submitted to NATO, it was decided that the P.1154 would be developed with the requirements for use by both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy (RN). Following the cancellation of the NBMR-3 requirement, HSA focused all its attention on the British joint requirement. Accordingly, development of the type continued for some time; however, by October 1963, the Ministry of Aviation was concerned with the project's progress, and noted that the effort to combine a strike aircraft and a fighter in a single aircraft, and trying to fit that same airframe to both of the services, was "unsound". On 2 February 1965, work on the P.1154 was cancelled by the new British government on grounds of cost at the point of prototype construction.
Irrespective of work on the P.1154 programme, development had continued on the subsonic P.1127 evaluation aircraft. A total of nine aircraft, known as the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel, was ordered and manufactured for testing. During 1964, the first of these had commenced flight operations; the Kestrel was assessed by the multinational "Tri-partite Evaluation Squadron", which consisted of British, US and German pilots, to determine how VTOL aircraft could be operated; the evaluations were finalised in November 1965. During 1966, following the cancellation of the P.1154, the RAF opted to proceed with ordering a modified derivative of the P.1127/Kestrel for service, which was designated as the Harrier GR.1.
The Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.1/GR.3 and the AV-8A Harrier were the first generation of the Harrier series, the first operational close-support and reconnaissance attack aircraft with vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) capabilities. These were developed directly from the Hawker P.1127 prototype and the Kestrel evaluation aircraft. On 18 April 1969, the Harrier GR.1 officially entered service with the RAF when the Harrier Conversion Unit at RAF Wittering received its first aircraft. The United States Marine Corps (USMC) also chose to procure the type, receiving 102 AV-8A and 8 TAV-8A Harriers between 1971 and 1976.
The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval V/STOL jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft; it was a navalised development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. The first version entered service with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS.1, and was informally known as the Shar. Sea Harriers played a high-profile role in the Falklands War of 1982, flying from the aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes. Wartime experiences led to the production of an improved model in the form of the upgraded Sea Harrier FA2; this version entered operational service on 2 April 1993. The Sea Harrier was also procured by the Indian Navy, where the first Indian Sea Harriers entered squadron service during December 1983.
As early as 1973, Hawker Siddeley and American aviation manufacturer McDonnell Douglas were jointly working on development of a more capable version of the Harrier. Early efforts concentrated on the development of an improved Pegasus engine, designated the Pegasus 15, which was being tested by Bristol Siddeley. During August 1981, the program received a boost when British Aerospace (BAe) and McDonnell Douglas signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), marking the UK's re-entry into the program. The Harrier was extensively redeveloped by McDonnell Douglas, and later joined by BAe (now parts of Boeing and BAE Systems, respectively), leading to the family of second-generation V/STOL jet multi-role aircraft. The American designation for this was the AV-8B Harrier II.
On 12 December 1983, the first production AV-8B was delivered to the USMC. The AV-8B is primarily used for attack or multi-role tasks, typically operated from small aircraft carriers. The RAF also chose to procure the second generation of the British Aerospace-built (with McDonnell Douglas as subcontractor) Harrier II GR5/GR7/GR9, which entered service in the mid-1980s. This model was also operated by several different NATO countries, including Spain and Italy. In December 1989, the first RAF squadron to be equipped with the Harrier II was declared operational. The British Harrier II was used by the RAF and later by the Royal Navy up to 2010, at which point the Harrier II and the Joint Force Harrier operational unit was disbanded as a cost-saving measure.
Between 1969 and 2003, 824 Harrier variants were delivered. While the manufacture of new Harriers concluded in 1997, the last remanufactured aircraft (Harrier II Plus configuration) was delivered in December 2003, ending the Harrier production line.
The Harrier Jump Jet, capable of taking off vertically, can only do so at less than its maximum loaded weight. In most cases, a short take off is performed, using forward speed to achieve aerodynamic lift, which uses fuel more economically than a vertical take off. On aircraft carriers, a ski-jump ramp is employed at the bow of the carrier to assist the aircraft in becoming airborne. Landings are typically performed very differently. Although a conventional landing is possible, the range of speeds at which this can be done is narrow due to relatively vulnerable outrigger undercarriage. Operationally, a near-vertical landing with some forward speed is preferred. Rotating the vectored thrust nozzles into a forward-facing position during normal flight is called vectoring in forward flight, or "VIFFing". This is a dog-fighting tactic, allowing for more sudden braking and higher turn rates. Braking could cause a chasing aircraft to overshoot and present itself as a target for the Harrier it was chasing, a combat technique formally developed by the USMC for the Harrier in the early 1970s.
The wind direction is a critical factor in VTOL manoeuvres. The procedure for vertical takeoff involves facing the aircraft into the wind. The thrust vector is set to 90° and the throttle is brought up to maximum, at which point the aircraft leaves the ground. The throttle is trimmed until a hover state is achieved at the desired altitude. The short-takeoff procedure involves proceeding with normal takeoff and then applying a thrust vector (less than 90°) at a runway speed below normal takeoff speed; usually the point of application is around 65 knots (120 km/h). For lower takeoff speeds the thrust vector is greater. The reaction control system involves thrusters at key points in the aircraft's fuselage and nose, also the wingtips. Thrust from the engine can be temporarily syphoned to control and correct the aircraft's pitch and roll during vertical flight.
The Harrier has been described by pilots as "unforgiving" to fly. The aircraft is capable of both forward flight (where it behaves in the manner of a typical fixed-wing aircraft above its stall speed), as well as VTOL and STOL manoeuvres (where the traditional lift and control surfaces are useless) requiring skills and technical knowledge for vertical takeoff and landing such as with helicopters. Most services demand great aptitude and extensive training for Harrier pilots, as well as experience in piloting both types of aircraft. Trainee pilots are often drawn from highly experienced and skilled helicopter pilots. In addition to normal flight controls, the Harrier has a lever for controlling the direction of the four vectoring nozzles. It is viewed by senior RAF officers as a significant design success, that to enable and control the aircraft's vertical flight required only a single lever added in the cockpit. For horizontal flight, the nozzles are directed rearwards by shifting the lever to the forward position; for short or vertical takeoffs and landings, the lever is pulled back to point the nozzles downward.
As of June 2015, the STOVL variant of the F-35 Lightning II (formerly the Joint Strike Fighter), designated as the F-35B, is intended to replace the AV-8B Harrier II in service with the US Marine Corps while the RAF and Royal Navy are scheduled to introduce the F-35B in 2016 with their first F35 unit, 617 Squadron.
During 2010, it was announced that the RAF and RN would retire their remaining Harriers by 2011, and in December 2010 the RAF's Harrier GR9s made their last operational flights. In June 2011, the MoD denied press reports that the aircraft were to be sold to the US Marine Corps for spares to support their AV-8B fleet. However, at the end of November 2011, the Defence Minister Peter Luff announced the sale of the final 72 Harriers to the US Marine Corps. As many as possible of the 72 Harrier GR9s will be converted to match AV-8B Night Attack configuration to augment the total AV-8B end strength (this will allow the USMC to retire some high-flight-hour F/A-18D aircraft), while the remaining aircraft will be used as spare parts sources for the airworthy fleet.
During the first half of 2016, the Indian Navy retired the last of their remaining 11 Sea Harriers, which had been operating from INS Viraat (formerly HMS Hermes), in favour of the conventional Mikoyan MiG-29K.
- Hawker P.1127
- Kestrel FGA.1
- Harrier GR.1/1A/3/3A
- (from 1966)
- Harrier T.2/2A/4/4A/8/52/60
- (from 1970)
- AV-8A/C/S Harrier Mk.50/53/55/Matador
- TAV-8A/S Harrier Mk.54/Matador
- Sea Harrier FRS.1/FRS.51/F(A).2
- (from 1978)
- AV-8B Harrier II/EAV-8B Matador II/AV-8B Harrier II Night Attack/AV-8B Harrier II Plus
- (from 1983)
- TAV-8B Harrier II/ETAV-8B Matador II/
- Harrier GR.5/5A/7/7A/9/9A
- (from 1985)
- Harrier T.10/12
- Indian Navy (former)
- Royal Thai Navy (former)
An unusual feature of the Harrier family of aircraft is their use of two types of flight control to provide pitch, roll and yaw control: conventional control surfaces for wingborne flight, and a system of reaction control valves directing jets of bleed air from the high-pressure compressor of the engine out through the extremities of the nose, tail, and at the wingtips during vectored thrust–borne flight and hover modes. The two systems are fully interlinked but air is not supplied to the reaction control valves during conventional wingborne flight.
|Kestrel FGA.1||Harrier GR3/AV-8A||Sea Harrier FA2||Harrier GR9||AV-8B+ Harrier|
|Crew||One (Two for trainer versions)|
|Length||42 ft 6 in (13.0 m)||47 ft 2 in (14.4 m)||46 ft 6 in (14.2 m)||46 ft 4 in (14.1 m)||47 ft 8 in (14.5 m)|
|Wingspan||22 ft 11 in (6.98 m)||25 ft 3 in (7.70 m)||25 ft 3 in (7.70 m)||30 ft 4 in (9.25 m)||30 ft 4 in (9.25 m)|
|Height||10 ft 9 in (3.28 m)||11 ft 4 in (3.45 m)||12 ft 4 in (3.76 m)||11 ft 8 in (3.56 m)||11 ft 8 in (3.56 m)|
|Empty Weight||10,000 lb (4,540 kg)||12,200 lb (5,530 kg)||14,052 lb (6,370 kg)||12,500 lb (5,670 kg)?||13,968 lb (6,340 kg)|
|Maximum take-off weight
|17,000 lb (7,710 kg)||26,000 lb (11,800 kg)||26,200 lb (11,900 kg)||31,000 lb (14,100 kg)||31,000 lb (14,100 kg)|
|Max speed||545 mph (877.1 km/h)||731 mph (1,176 km/h)||735 mph (1,183 km/h)||662 mph (1,065 km/h)||662 mph (1,065 km/h)|
|Combat radius||200 nmi (370 km)||300 nmi (556 km)||300 nmi (556 km)|
|Engine||Pegasus 6||Pegasus 11 Mk 101||Pegasus 11 Mk 106||Pegasus 11 Mk 107||Pegasus 11 Mk 105|
|Thrust||15,000 lbf (66.7 kN)||21,800 lbf (97.0 kN)||21,800 lbf (97.0 kN)||24,750 lbf (110 kN)||23,500 lbf (105 kN)|
|Radar||None||None||Blue Fox / Blue Vixen||None||AN/APG-65|
- Hawker Siddeley P.1154
- Hawker P.1127/Kestrel
- Hawker Siddeley Harrier
- McDonnell-Douglas AV-8B Harrier II
- British Aerospace Harrier II
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Bell X-14
- Hunting H.126
- Rockwell XFV-12
- Ryan XV-5 Vertifan
- Short SC.1
- Yakovlev Yak-36
- Yakovlev Yak-38
- List of VTOL aircraft
- List of aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm
- List of attack aircraft
- List of fighter aircraft
- List of aircraft of the Royal Air Force
- List of military aircraft of the United States
- List of Harrier Jump Jet family losses
- List of active United States military aircraft
- List of active United Kingdom military aircraft
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harrier Jump Jet aircraft family.|
- The P.1127 Analysed – a 1962 Flight International article on the Hawker P.1127
- P.1127 Development – a 1963 Flight International article on the development of the Hawker P.1127
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- Sea Harrier Still Alive and Kicking (archive article)
- Harrier history website
- Harriers lost in the Falklands
- Harrier development & service, 4 part series
- Photographs of Harrier G R Mk 7 deployed aboard HMS Illustrious
- RTP-TV AeroSpace Show: Video of Harrier Hovering
- AV-8B Plus product page at Boeing.com
- AV-8B Harrier II fact sheet and AV-8B Harrier II history page at Navy.mil
- AV-8B Harrier page at globalsecurity.org
- McDonnell Douglas/British Aerospace AV-8B Harrier II Attack Fighter page on Aerospaceweb.org
- 3D view of Harrier AV-8B at the National Museum of the Marines Corps site
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- Photos of this aircraft on Airliners.net
- Defense Industry Daily: AV-8B Harrier finding Success in Iraq (30 March 2005)
- Harrier page on globalsecurity.org