British Aerospace Harrier II
|Harrier GR5 / GR7 / GR9|
|An RAF Harrier GR9 over Afghanistan, 2008|
|Role||V/STOL strike aircraft|
|National origin||United Kingdom / United States|
|Manufacturer||British Aerospace / McDonnell Douglas
BAE Systems / Boeing
|First flight||30 April 1985|
|Primary users||Royal Air Force (historical)
Royal Navy (historical)
|Developed from||Hawker Siddeley Harrier
McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II
The British Aerospace/McDonnell Douglas Harrier II is a second-generation vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) jet aircraft used previously by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and, between 2006 and 2010, the Royal Navy (RN). The aircraft was derived from the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II, which itself was a development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. Initial deliveries of the Harrier II were designated in service as Harrier GR5; subsequently upgraded airframes were redesignated accordingly as GR7 and GR9.
Both the RAF and RN operated the Harrier II as a ground attack platform; the Harrier II was also capable of being operated from the Invincible class aircraft carriers. The Harrier II flew combat missions in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In December 2010, budgetary pressures led to the early retirement of all Harrier IIs from service. The decision to retire was controversial as there was no immediate fixed-wing replacement in its role; in the long term the Harrier II is to be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.
Design and development
Development of a much more powerful successor to the Harrier began in 1973 as a cooperative effort between McDonnell Douglas(MDD) in the US and Hawker Siddeley (in 1977, its aviation interests were nationalised to form part of British Aerospace) in the UK. At the time, first-generation Harriers were being introduced into Royal Air Force and United States Marine Corps; however, operational experience had highlighted demand for a more capable aircraft. The British government had only a minor requirement, for up to 60 Harriers at most, and competing pressures on the defence budget left little room for frivolous expenditure such as the Advanced Harrier. A lack of government backing for developing the necessary engine of the new aircraft, the Pegasus 15, led Hawker to withdraw from this project in 1975.
Due to US interest, work proceeded on the development of a less ambitious successor, a Harrier fitted with a larger wing and making use of composite materials in its construction. Two prototypes were built from existing aircraft and flew in 1978. The US government was content to continue if a major foreign buyer was found; however Britain had their own plan to improve the current Harrier with a new, larger metal wing. In 1980, the UK considered if the American program would meet their requirements – their opinion was that it required modification, thus the MDD wing design was altered to incorporate the British-designed leading-edge root extensions. The US and UK agreement to proceed included a British contribution of US$280 million to cover development costs to meet their own requirements and to purchase at least 60 aircraft. Additionally, construction would be divided between MDD and BAe; on the Harrier II, British Aerospace was the prime contractor, with McDonnell Douglas serving as a sub-contractor.[verification needed]
The first prototype flew in 1981. The first BAe-built development GR5 flew for the first time on 30 April 1985 and the aircraft entered service in July 1987. The GR5 had many differences from the USMC's AV-8B Harriers, such as avionics fit, armaments and equipment; the wing of the GR5 featured a stainless steel leading edge, giving it different flex characteristics from the AV-8B. In December 1989, the RAF's first squadron to be equipped with the Harrier II was declared operational.
Description and role
The Harrier II is an extensively modified version of the first generation Harrier GR1/GR3 series. The original aluminium alloy fuselage was replaced by a fuselage which makes extensive use of composites, providing significant weight reduction and increased payload or range. A new one-piece wing provides around 14 per cent more area and increased thickness. The wing and leading-edge root extensions allows for a 6,700-pound (3,035 kg) payload increase over a 1,000 ft (300 m) takeoff compared with the first generation Harriers. The UK's Harrier IIs have an additional missile pylon in front of each wing landing gear, and strengthened leading edges of the wings to meet higher bird strike requirements.
The Harrier II's cockpit has day and night operability and is equipped with Head-up display (HUD), two head-down displays known as multi-purpose colour displays (MPCDs), a digital moving map, an Inertial Navigation System (INS), and a hands-on-throttle-and-stick system (HOTAS). Like the British Aerospace Sea Harrier, the Harrier II used an elevated bubble canopy to provide a significantly improved all-round view. A combination of the new design of the control system and the greater lateral stability of the aircraft made the Harrier II fundamentally easier to fly than the first generation Harrier GR1/GR3 models.
The RAF used Harriers in the ground attack and reconnaissance roles, so they relied on the short-range AIM-9 Sidewinder missile for air combat. The Sidewinder had proven effective for Sea Harriers against Argentinian Mirages in the Falklands conflict; however, from 1993 the Sea Harrier FA2 could also carry the much longer-range AIM-120 AMRAAM, a radar-guided missile. The Sea Harrier had a radar since its introduction and the USMC later equipped their AV-8B Harriers with a radar as part of the AV-8B+ upgrade; however the RAF chose not to install a radar on their airframes. When the Sea Harrier was retired, it was suggested that its Blue Vixen radar could be transferred to the Harrier IIs. However, the Ministry of Defence rejected this as risky and too expensive; the Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram estimated that the cost would be in excess of £600 million.
Even prior to the Harrier GR5 entering service, it was clear that alterations were required for the aircraft to be more capable in the interdictor role. A more advanced model, designated as the Harrier GR7, was developed primarily to add a night-time operational capability and avionics improvements The GR7 development program operated in conjunction with a similar USMC initiative upon its AV-8B Harrier fleet. Additional avionics include a nose-mounted forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and night vision goggles, an electronic countermeasures suite, new cockpit displays and a replacement moving map system. The GR7 conducted its maiden flight in May 1990 and entered service in August 1990. Following the full delivery of 34 Harrier GR7s in 1991, all of the GR5s underwent avionics upgrades to become GR7s as well. Some GR7s were equipped with uprated Rolls-Royce Pegasus engines, correspondingly redesignated as GR7A; these Harriers had significantly improved takeoff and landing capabilities, and could carry greater payloads.
A further major upgrade programme from the GR7 standard was conducted; the Harrier GR9. The GR9 was developed via the Joint Update and Maintenance Programme (JUMP), which significantly upgraded the Harrier fleet's avionics, communications systems, and weapons capabilities during scheduled periods of maintenance in an incremental manner. The first of these increments started with software upgrades to the communications, ground proximity warning and navigation systems, followed by the integration of the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile. Capability C added the RAF's Rangeless Airborne Instrumentation Debriefing System (RAIDS), Raytheon's Successor Identification Friend or Foe (SIFF) system and the Paveway guided bombs. The Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod (DJRP) was added as part of Capability D.
In February 2007, handling trials of the MBDA Brimstone missile began, however the Brimstone would remain uncleared for deployment on the GR9 to its early retirement. The Sniper targeting pod replaced the less accurate TIALD in 2007, under an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) for Afghanistan. Capability E would have included a Link 16 communications link, an auxiliary communications system, and a Tactical Information Exchange Capability (TIEC) system that was planned to by deployed on both the Harrier II and the Tornado GR4. In July 2007, BAE Systems completed the final of seven Harrier GR9 replacement rear fuselages for the MoD. The fuselage components were designed and built as part of a three-year £20 million programme. In July 2008, Qinetiq was awarded a contract to perform upgrades and maintain the Harrier II fleet until 2018, the then-predicted out of service date.
The first squadrons to receive the Harrier II were based in Royal Air Force Germany, a standing force maintained to deter Soviet aggression against the West and, in the event of war, carry out ground attacks. As the Harrier II had a significantly greater range and survivability than the preceding Hawker Siddeley Harrier it was derived from, a new emphasis was placed on interdiction operations. By the end of 1990, the Harrier II was approaching full operational status with multiple squadrons. In 1994, the last of the RAF's first generation Harriers was retired.
In 1995, hostilities between ethnic Croatians and Serbians in the aftermath of the collapse of Yugoslavia led to the dispatch of NATO forces to the region as a deterrent to further escelations in violence; a squadron of Harrier IIs was stationed at Gioia del Colle Air Base in Italy, relieving an earlier deployment of RAF SEPECAT Jaguars. Both attack and reconnaissance missions were carried out by the Harriers, which had been quickly modified to integrate GPS navigation for operations in the theatre; more than 126 strike sorties were carried out by the RAF's Harrier II, often assisted by Jaguar fighter-bombers acting as designators for laser-guided bombs such as the Paveway II.
In June 1994, the newly introduced GR7 was deployed for trials on board the Navy's Invincible class aircraft carriers; operational naval deployments began in 1997. These operations were later formalised under the Joint Force Harrier command organisation, in which RAF Harrier IIs would routinely operate alongside the Royal Navy's Sea Harriers.
During Operation Allied Force, the NATO mission over Kosovo in 1999, the RAF contribution included 16 Panavia Tornados and 12 Harrier GR7s. On 27 April 1999, during a mission to attack a Serbian military depot, RAF Harriers came under heavy anti-aircraft fire, but did not suffer losses as a result. In April 1999, the rules of engagement were changed to allow Harriers to use GPS navigation and targeting during medium-altitude bombing missions. There were conflicting reports about the effectiveness of RAF munitions in the conflict; at the time, the BBC reported an 80% direct hit rate was achieved by RAF strike aircraft, a subsequent Parliamentary Select Committee found that 24% of all munitions expended in the theatre had been precision weapons.
In 2003, the Harrier GR7 played a prominent role during Operation Telic, the UK contribution to the U.S.-led Iraq War. When war broke out, Harriers flew reconnaissance and strike missions inside Southern Iraq, reportedly to destroy Scud missile launchers to prevent their use against neighbouring Kuwait. Prior to the war, the Harriers had been equipped with a new armament, the AGM-65 Maverick missile, which reportedly was a noticeable contribution to the Harrier's operations over Iraq.
During the Battle of Basra, a key Iraqi city, Harriers conducted multiple strike missions against Iraqi fuel depots to cripple enemy ground vehicles; other priority targets for the Harriers included tanks, boats, and artillery. According to Nordeen, roughly 30 per cent of all RAF Harrier operations were close air support missions, supporting advancing allied ground troops. In April 2003, the Ministry of Defence admitted that RAF Harriers had deployed controversial RBL755 cluster bombs in Iraq. Both the British and American Harrier squadrons were withdrawn from Iraq in summer 2003.
In September 2004, six Harrier GR7s were deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, replacing a US detachment of AV-8Bs in the region. On 14 October 2005, a Harrier GR7A was destroyed and another was damaged in a Taliban rocket attack while parked on the tarmac at Kandahar. No one was injured in the attack; the damaged Harrier was repaired, while the destroyed aircraft was replaced.
Harrier GR7s were deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 as part of the expanded ISAF mission in the south of Afghanistan. Between July and September, the theatre total for munitions deployed by British Harriers on planned operations and close air support to ground forces rose from 179 to 539, mostly CRV-7 rockets. The air support provided by the RAF Harrier armed primarily with rockets was described by a British Army Major as "utterly, utterly useless".
In January 2007, the Harrier GR9's began its first operational deployment at Kandahar, as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Following over five years of continuous operations in Afghanistan, the last of Britain's Harriers were withdrawn from the region, having flown over 22,000 hours on 8,500 sorties, they were replaced by RAF Tornado GR4s.
In 2005, allegations emerged in Parliament that, following the transfer of servicing duties to RAF Cottesmore, the standard and quality of maintenance on the Harrier fleet had fallen dramatically; several airframes had been considerably damaged and one likely destroyed due to mistakes made, the time taken to perform the servicing had risen from 100 days to 155 days, and the cost per aircraft had also risen to more than ten times that of the prior arrangements performed by Defence Aviation Repair Agency (DARA).
In 2006, the Sea Harrier was retired from Fleet Air Arm service and the Harrier GR7/9 fleet was tasked with the missions that it used to share with those aircraft. The former Sea Harrier squadron 800 Naval Air Squadron reformed with ex-RAF Harrier GR7/9s in April 2006 and joined by the re-formed 801 Naval Air Squadron in 2007. These later expanded and become the Naval Strike Wing. On 31 March 2010, No. 20 Squadron RAF, the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), was disbanded; No. 4 Squadron also disbanded and reformed as No. 4 (Reserve) Squadron at RAF Wittering. All Harrier GR7 aircraft were retired by July 2010.
The Harrier GR9 was expected to stay in service at least until 2018. However, on 19 October 2010 it was announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review that the Harrier was to be retired by April 2011. In the long term, the F-35C Lightning II, scheduled for introduction by 2020, shall operate from the Navy's two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. The decision to retire the Harrier was controversial, with some senior officers calling for the Panavia Tornado to be retired as an alternative.
On 24 November 2010, the Harrier made its last ever flight from a carrier, incidentally also the last flight from the carrier HMS Ark Royal prior to retirement. The fleet's farewell to operational flights occurred on 15 December 2010 with fly pasts over numerous military bases. In November 2011, the Ministry of Defence sold 72 remaining Harrier IIs, along with spare parts, to the United States Marine Corps for £116 million (US$180 million); the aircraft are to be used as a source of components for the AV-8B Harrier II fleet.
According to a report by Air Forces Monthly, some of the 72 Harrier IIs were to fly again, as the USMC planned to equip two squadrons with GR.9/9A models due to the well-maintained condition of the airframes when inspected at RAF Cottesmore, where the aircraft were stored and maintained by a skeleton crew of technicians following their retirement. This was contradicted by the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in June 2012, who stated that the USMC never planned to operate ex-RAF Harriers.
- The GR5 was the RAF's first model of the second-generation Harrier. The GR5 considerably differed from the USMC AV-8B in terms of avionics, armaments and countermeasures. Forty one GR5s were built.
- The GR5A was a minor variant, incorporating design changes in anticipation of the GR7 upgrade. Twenty-one GR5As were built.
- The GR7 is an upgraded model of the GR5. The first GR7 conducted its maiden flight in May 1990, and made its first operational deployment in August 1995 over the former Yugoslavia. While the GR7 deployed on Invincible class aircraft carriers during testing as early as June 1994, the first operational deployments at sea began in 1997.
- The GR7A feature an uprated Pegasus 107 engine. GR7As upgraded to GR9 standard retain the A designation as GR9As. The Mk 107 engine provides around 3,000 lbf (13 kN) extra thrust over the Mk 105's 21,750 lbf (98 kN) thrust.
- The GR9 is an upgrade of the GR7, focused on the Harrier II's avionics and weapons. Upgraded under the JUMP programme.
- The Harrier GR9A is an avionics and weapons upgrade of the uprated engined GR7As. All GR9s were capable of accepting the Mk 107 Pegasus engine to become GR9As.
- The Harrier T10 is the first two seat training variant of the Harrier II; based on the USMC Harrier trainer the TAV-8B. Unlike their American counterparts, the T10s are fully combat-capable.
- Update of the trainers to accompany the GR9. Nine T10 aircraft received the JUMP updates under the designation T12, however these would retain the less powerful Pegasus 105 engine.
- Equivalent to the T.12, however differs by being equipped with the newer and more powerful Mk 107 Pegasus engine of the GR7A/9A.
- United Kingdom
- Royal Air Force (1989–2011)
- Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm
Aircraft on display
- GR.9 ZD433 delivered on 20 December 2011, to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at RNAS Yeovilton.
- GR.9 ZD461 delivered on 16 March 2012, to the Imperial War Museum Duxford.
- GR.9 ZG477 delivered on 20 December 2011, to the RAF Museum at RAF Cosford.
- A Harrier II on external display at British company Dyson's headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
Specifications (Harrier GR7)
Data from Nordeen
- Crew: 1
- Length: 46 ft 4 in (14.12 m)
- Wingspan: 30 ft 4 in (9.25 m)
- Height: 11 ft 8 in (3.56 m)
- Wing area: 243 ft² (22.6 m²)
- Empty weight: 12,500 lb (5,700 kg)
- Loaded weight: 15,703 lb (7,123 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 18,950 lb VTO, 31,000 lb STO (8,595 kg VTO, 14,061 kg STO)
- Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Pegasus Mk. 105 vectored thrust turbofan, 21,750 lb (96.7 kN)
- Maximum speed: 662 mph (1,065 km/h)
- Combat radius: 300 nmi (556 km)
- Ferry range: 2,015 mi(3256 km)
- Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,170 m)
- Rate of climb: 14,715 ft/min (74.8 m/s)
- Guns: 2× 25 mm ADEN cannon pods under the fuselage (no longer fitted)
- Hardpoints: 8 (under-wing pylon stations 1A & 7A are intended for air-to-air missiles only) with a capacity of 8,000 lb (3,650 kg) of payload and provisions to carry combinations of:
- Rockets: 4× LAU-5003 rocket pods (19× CRV7 70 mm rockets each) or 4× Matra rocket pods (18× SNEB 68 mm rockets each)
- Missiles: 6× AIM-9 Sidewinders or 4× AGM-65 Maverick
- Bombs: ordnance such as Paveway series of laser-guided bombs, unguided iron bombs (including 3 kg and 14 kg practice bombs)
- Other: 2× auxiliary drop tanks or reconnaissance pods (such as the Joint Reconnaissance Pod)
A government statement gave the following systems as being cleared for the GR9 as of November 2010, just before its retirement :
The Litening 3 and RAPTOR pods, ASRAAM, Enhanced Paveway III, ALARM, Brimstone and Storm Shadow were not qualified for use on the GR9. A GR9 in Afghanistan typically carried a DJRP, a Sniper pod, two Paveway IV and two of either CRV-7, Paveway IV or Maverick.
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- Nordeen 2006, p. 67.
- Nordeen 2006, Appendix A, p. 186.
- Eden 2004, p. 288.
- Jenkins 1998, pp. 69–70.
- Jenkins 1998, pp. 70–72.
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- Gaines 1985, p. 148.
- "Aerospace, Volume 20." Royal Aeronautical Society, 1993, p. 14.
- Nordeen 2006, p. 68.
- Wilson 2000, pp. 26–27.
- Walker 1986, pp. 24–25.
- Jenkins 1998, pp. 88–89.
- Jenkins 1998, pp. 76–77.
- Nordeen 2006, pp. 119–120.
- Walker 1986, pp. 23–25.
- Walker 1986, p. 24.
- "Written Answers", House of Commons Hansard, 5 January 2004
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- Elliot 1990, p. 56.
- Flight International 1986, p. 10.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harrier II.|
- Second-generation Harriers on Greg Goebel's vectorsite.net
- Photos of this aircraft on Airliners.net
- Photographs of Harrier G R Mk 7 deployed aboard HMS Illustrious
- Defense Industry Daily: AV-8B Harrier finding Success in Iraq (30 March 2005)