Harrier Jump Jet

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Harrier Jump Jet
A Harrier GR7A of 800 Naval Air Sqn, Royal Navy
Role V/STOL strike aircraft
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Hawker Siddeley
British Aerospace / McDonnell Douglas
Boeing / BAE Systems
First flight 28 December 1967
Introduction 1969
Status In service
Primary users United States Marine Corps
Royal Air Force (retired)
Royal Navy (retired)
Indian Navy (retired)
Produced 1967–2003
Developed from Hawker P.1127
Variants Hawker Siddeley Harrier
British Aerospace Sea Harrier
McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II
British Aerospace Harrier II

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). Originally developed by UK 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.

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. The Sea Harrier is a naval strike/air defence fighter. The AV-8B and BAE Harrier II are the respective US and British variants of the second generation Harrier aircraft.



Following an approach by the Bristol Engine Company in 1957 that they were planning a directed thrust engine, Hawker Aircraft came up with a design for an aeroplane that could meet the NATO specification for a "Light Tactical Support Fighter". There was no financial support for the development from HM Treasury, but aid was found through NATO's Mutual Weapon Development Project (MWDP) for engine development.[1]

The Hawker P.1127 was ordered as a prototype and flew in 1960. NATO developed a specification (NBMR-3) for a VTOL aircraft, but one that was expected to have the performance of an aircraft like the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. Hawker drafted a supersonic version of the P.1127, the P.1150, and also the Hawker P.1154, which would meet NBMR-3. The latter was a winner of the NATO competition and development continued, initially for both services, until cancelled by the new government on cost grounds, at the point of prototype construction in 1965.

Work on the P.1127 continued with nine evaluation aircraft, the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel, ordered. These started flying in 1964 and were assessed by the "Tri-partite Evaluation Squadron", which consisted of British, US and German pilots to determine how VTOL aircraft could be operated. With the cancellation of the P.1154, the RAF ordered a modified P.1127/Kestrel as the Harrier GR.1 in 1966.

First-generation Harriers[edit]

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.

The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval V/STOL jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft, a 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. The upgraded Sea Harrier FA2 entered service in 1993. It was withdrawn from Royal Navy service in March 2006. It was withdrawn from Indian Navy service on 6 May 2016.

Second-generation Harriers[edit]

The Harrier was extensively redeveloped by McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace (now parts of Boeing and BAE Systems, respectively), leading to the Boeing/BAE Systems AV-8B Harrier II.[2] This is a family of second-generation V/STOL jet multi-role aircraft, including the British Aerospace-built (with McDonnell Douglas as subcontractor) Harrier II GR5/GR7/GR9, which entered service in the mid-1980s. The AV-8B is primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, typically operated from small aircraft carriers. Versions are used by several NATO countries, including Spain, Italy, and the United States. The British Harrier II was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy until 2010 when the UK Joint Force Harrier was disbanded as 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.[3]


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.


As of June 2015, the F-35B STOVL variant of the F-35 Lightning II (formerly the Joint Strike Fighter) is intended to replace the AV-8B Harrier II in service with the US Marine Corps[4][5] while the RAF and Royal Navy are scheduled to introduce the F-35B in 2016 with their first F35 unit, 617 Squadron.[6][7][8] and the Italian Navy in 2018-2019.[9]
In 2010, it was announced that the RAF and RN would retire their remaining Harriers by 2011,[10] and in December 2010 the RAF's Harrier GR9s made their last operational flights.[11] 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.[12][13] 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.[14] 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.[citation needed]

In 2016, the Indian Navy retired their last 11 Sea Harriers, operating from the Viraat (formerly the HMS Hermes), in favour of the MiG-29K.[15]


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


Operators of the Harrier (all variants)
A parked Harrier
A Spanish Navy AV-8S Matador aircraft
several Harriers stored on board a ship
United States Marine Corps AV-8A of VMA-231 in 1980
 United Kingdom
 United States


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.[18]

Kestrel FGA.1 Harrier GR3/AV-8A Sea Harrier FA2 Harrier GR9 AV-8B+ Harrier
Crew One (Two for trainer versions)
Length 42 ftin (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
(short takeoff)
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
Sources: Norden[19]

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. ^ Hay Stevens, James (20 May 1965), "VTOL Aircraft 1965", Flight, 87 (2932), pp. 769–770 
  2. ^ Norden, Lon O. Harrier II, Validating V/STOL. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2006. ISBN 1-59114-536-8.
  3. ^ "Harrier Projects". airforce-technology.com. Retrieved: 21 July 2011.[unreliable source?]
  4. ^ "Harrier Production". Harrier.org.uk. Retrieved: 21 July 2011.
  5. ^ "F-35 Lightning II Program Update & Fast Facts". lockheedmartin.com. Retrieved: 26 August 2010.
  6. ^ "Dambusters To Be Next Lightning Ii Squadron". RAF MOD. 18 July 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Jennings, Gareth (18 June 2015). "UK orders first operational F-35 combat aircraft". Janes Defence. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Chuter, Andrew. "It’s Official: U.K. To Switch Back to STOVL F-35". Defense News, 10 May 2012.
  9. ^ "Parliament Act on JSF Program". documenti.camera.it. Retrieved: 29 March 2010.
  10. ^ "Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review". HM Government, 19 October 2010. Retrieved: 19 October 2010.
  11. ^ "Harrier jump jets make final flight from RAF Cottesmore". BBC News,
  12. ^ "Harrier jump-jets sold 'for peanuts'". The Telegraph, 15 June 2011.
  13. ^ "MoD denies sale of Harriers to US". DMJ, 15 June 2011.
  14. ^ "UK sells 72 retired Harrier jump jets for $180m to US". BBC News, 24 November 2011.
  15. ^ Raghuvanshi, Vivek (March 21, 2016). "Indian Navy Retires Sea Harriers". Defense News. Retrieved 21 May 2017. 
  16. ^ Indian Navy Retires Sea Harriers 21 March 2016. Accessed 3 April 2016.
  17. ^ http://pacificwingsmagazine.com/2011/03/08/end-of-a-legend%E2%80%94harrier-farewell/
  18. ^ "Technical" page on harrier.org.uk website, viewed 2013-11-24
  19. ^ Norden 2006, Appendix C.

Further reading[edit]

  • Farley, John, OBE. A View From The Hover: My Life In Aviation. Bath, UK: Seager Publishing/Flyer Books, 2010, first edition 2008. ISBN 978-0-9532752-0-5.
  • Polmar, Norman, and Dana Bell. One Hundred Years of World Military Aircraft. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press, 2003. ISBN 1-59114-686-0.

External links[edit]