The Harriers have gone, end of an era for RE Harrier Support

Discussion in 'Sappers' started by MacSapper, Dec 15, 2010.

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  1. A wee quote from one of my old posts and some new added.

    The first time I encountered these amazing flying machines was on Crusader 80, my unit 32 Field Sqn RE (Harrier Support) were just back from 9 months road and bridge building in Kenya and I was soon to find out what the Harrier Support bit was. We flew all the way to Sennelager in the back of Bedford 4 tonners from Ripon via some docks, an LSL (Sir Galahad) with a RePlen at Emblem. That’s when we realised how big the Ex was going to be, thousands of vehicles and Troops, it reminded me a bit of the pictures taken a few days after the D Day Landings without getting wet.
    I didn’t realise that the Harrier Force deployed into the Field and we had to build everything in a week. In farmers fields with a tree line, each Troop had to layout and construct a runway, taxi ways, VSTOL Pad, Harrier Hides, fuel bunds, water supply point, defensive perimeter (Trenches as the RAF don’t do digging) and anything else that the RAF wanted. On top of that we had to duplicate all that for a step up site as well. All of which was done in fully tac mode, non stop work until it was complete and ready for Sorties. We were totally fked by the end of 5 days, and then the RAF ground Force turned up in white buses and some strange blokes in balaclavas and goggles drove up in stripped down hairy air portable land rovers which looked fkin hilarious, yes this was my first encounter of the famous Short Range Perimeter Defence Group, (Raf Regt). When the GR3 Harriers turned up I was like an excited Pup nearly wettin ma self at the sight of these state of the art flying machines, I still can’t take my eyes off them as they fly over my house in Lincolnshire (not for much longer eh). As the flying phase took place over 2 weeks, we had a split shift so that we went on R&R, Sailing from Keil and around Denmark “ya beauty” I could right a book about that trip..
    Onyway, nobody has mentioned the fekin time zones.
    Zulu = GMT
    Alpha = UK summertime
    Bravo = Local time
    I mention this as we were maintaining the Site and we kept missing our mealtimes at the Raf cook hoose tent, all the different factions had allocated scoff times and the Bastarts would never tell us that they had changed onto whatever time. We would eventually get fed but we would have to wait until all and sundry was fed.
    On a fateful day, an Raf mech had left a mess tin full of nuts n bolt on the wing root of a Harrier and when they fired it up they were sucked into the Pegasus engine.
    No bother to us we thought until they said replace the engine. That’s when our quite days of tightening up the guy ropes and straightening bits of tin finished. They have to take out the fked engine = Construct a semi permanent extra hide with hard surface, lighting and power and still maintain the STAP state.
    Run up new installed engine = Construct Engine test pad away from every fker in case new engine blows up during max power test.
    FFS there was only 6 of us, heid doon here we go.
    Did the fully enclosed hide, they took the engine oot making sure that the cnt that damaged it was there all the time, The engine test pad was a bastirt, the plan is you build the pad and pin it down, tie the Harrier down to it and try to take off, so 2 pins every 200mm in each bit of tin plank = 12 pins in 240 planks = fkin thousands of pins. To do this we would use a small generator and a power hammer, can’t use that said Raf Fireman, it runs on petrol, no petrol on site, BASTARDO !!. Fk it, 14lb sledge hammers and away we go.
    Got the ETP down, bring up Harrier towed by a Unimog and the fekin Harrier bogs in up to its belly nuts. Fak.. it’s dark a clock in the morning and now we have to dig 3 wheel channels at an angle of 7 degrees = 90metres of digging. Fk that, Raf fk off for a well deserved cup of tea while we dig a short 3 metre ramp for the main landing gear insert some tin planks, dig down to the outrigger wheels, fold them up, attach a Sappers shoulder to each wing tip, hook up a tirfor and winch the fker out the deck and dragged it onto the Test pad and strapped it down.
    Onyway, back to the time zones, we had been ballsoot right through the night without even a brew so we trooped off to the cook hoose for a well deserved breakfast.
    “Breakfasts finished, were on Bravo time now” said the Raf sloppo who was dressed in combat whites complete with hat, “comeback for lunch in 5 hours”. Aw FFS, Raf Snowdrops were feeding their Alsatian dugs with leftovers of the breakfast = three Dugs noses pulled oot of their breakfast and six Sappers in pairs armed with racing spoons devoured the dugs breakfast to much wretching by Raf observers and three greetin Dugs.
    The rest of Crusader 80 passed relatively uneventful.. Aye right

    I worked with the Sea Harrier on the initial “Ski Jump” Trials at Farnborough, Fekin Brilliant!
    For the ramp we used Christchurch Cribs underneath with MGB Top Panels left right and centre with decking in between topped with class 60 track way as the take off surface.
    The Height and angle of the ramp was calculated by white coated (Boffins) using slide rules and note pads. The ramp adjusted by jacks and with various pieces of dunnage added or taken out to achieve the correct scoop angle so that the Sea Harrier would be flipped into the air rather than just run up a ramp.
    We had to make a lot of adjustments and the Boffins were disagreeing with each other’s calculation and measurements it was a hot afternoon and they retired to their office for some Pimms know doubt.
    Once the Boffins had Fkd off, the test Pilot who had been sitting in a deck chair under the shade of his Sea Harrier’s wing came up.
    The grey haired Test Pilot with White overalls on and sporting a huge handle bar moustache walk over to the ramp, had a look, walked around, walked up then down the ramp, lit his pipe and said “take it up 6 inches on the top and I’ll give it a go”.
    Right then Game on again, we adjusted the jacks, tightened the anchor strops and the Pilot Fired up the Harrier, Taxied over, went passed the ramp, turned round lined up and gunned the Pegasus engine.
    The Harrier engine always gets revved up twice before they go for a Short Take Off, this time it didn’t, full bore and it thundered towards the ramp and up it went.
    The Boffins heard it take off and came running out to watch from about half a mile away as the Pilot circuited and landed again, “Piece of P$ss” he said
    It’s Interesting that the final ramp angles were 18degrees for HMS Hermes, 23degrees for HMS Illustrious, a differing lengths of run ups I suppose.

    In the 80’s on another Phantom Bugle I was privileged to get a back seat cabbie in a T-Bird over Germany, I only through up twice and I met the same Pilot on a train going north last year, he now flies for Easy Jet.

    I’ll miss the Harrier and all the shit I had Tin Kicking with 32, 11 and 10 Sqns and all the happy times watching it fly.
    Och well
  2. Final flight for UK's Harriers at RAF Cottesmore
    Contains some good archive video.
  3. Good Post, once you decode the Jock accent.
  4. Ye need tae git oot mair min, am no pittin ma phone voice oan fir ye
  5. Now that we no longer have the Harrier, just what and how many aircraft do the RAF have left?

    In may day the crabs still had Phantoms, Buccaneers, Tornados, Hawks, harriers, Jaguars and the three services had umteen different helicopters from the Scout and Gazelle, up to Chinooks, Pumas, Wessex, Sea King and Lynx...

    How are the mighty fallen indeed...


  6. Although the end is unavoidable for Fixed Wing within the FAA i am pleased to say that the name of 800 NAS will be carried forward in the future by Kettering Sea Cadets who have been affiliated with the Squadron.

    The afiliation was arrange before the SDSR and following a visit by the Sea & Royal Marines Cadets it was decided that the Unit would continue with its plans to adopt the Training Ship Name.

    As of January 2011 Kettering Sea Cadets will be known as TS 800 NAS Sea Cadet Corps
  7. That's good to hear. Now, if you just keep your eyes open for some Navy-surplus aircraft carriers and Harriers coming on to the market, you could be in real business. Get yourself some decent anti-ship missiles and you'll be more powerful than the RN's remaining surface fleet for a start.
  8. wedge_cadman

    wedge_cadman War Hero Reviewer Book Reviewer

    If I ever have to kick tin ever again, it will be too soon. 2 pairs of boots and toes mashed in a week. QM, says, you can't exchange those you deliberately damaged them..
    Let's just hope we stick to projecting our air power from ships, wait...... oh right, we can't do that either....Taxi!!
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Air Support is quite high up in the EinC's priorities at the moment believe it or not. Whilst Harrier hides etc have now died a death there are new requirements for air support such as UAV. 48 Fd Sqn (Air Sp) did do some runway repair on the COB in 2007 because of all the rocket attacks. There are lots of questions being asked about the relevance of air support, especially the heavy role. Air support is not a dark art which only Sqns within 12 Group can do. Crater repair is nothing more than clearing out loose material and water, straighting edges, filling and compacting materials then pouring concrete. Kicking tin is kicking tin. If it is that complex how come during the 1980's and 1990's we used to send down a Sqn at time from where ever in the Corps to the Falklands to cover LAS? The more cynical think that 12 Group are trying to justify their existance with SDSR and I have to admit that I am one of them.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. By the wee man, it's a good thing the Islamic world has nothing against us.

    And the Isle of Man. If they start up we've had it.
  11. I spent a happy 3 years on harrier support with 32 Sqn. Ripon, Germany and battered boots through kicking feckin planks !! Great days !
  12. 32 was my first Squadron back in '84. Only did three Harrier excercises with them though, Hard Frost, Handy Forge and Hill Foil...funny how I can remember the names!

    Never got a cabby in one of these iconic aircraft, but it was directly due to serving 'with' them that I now have a Pilots license. The first Ex. I did was at Atterheide civvy flying club in Osnabruck. The deal was that we build them a gravel carpark (which we used as the one of the hide locations) and they let the Harriers fly there........there were that many local civvy 'tourists' watching from only feet away that the club house bar did a fortune in snacks and drinks. There were Harriers at Achmer too, but I never went to Achmer until I did a Gliding course there whilst with 45 in the traz.

    I remember one guy from each ground support unit got a flight in the T7 that seemed to be at each location. We all put our names in a hat and one was picked...not me though I am sorry to say! But at Atterheide there was a Brit civvy salesman (selling Swarfega to the boxheads) who had his Cessna at the club. He saw how dissapointed I was a not being picked so he flew moi and two other lads around the traz in his plane...gave me the buzz that I have had from flying ever since.

    I did get to sit in a harrier front seat whilst some groundy explained what everything was! I noticed a bit of red woolen thread taped to the outside of the front screen, and asked what it was. It was a slip indicator to tell the pilot if he was heading into wind when hovering! apparently it was absolutely vital that you hovered exactly into wind... (I later saw the same threads on the screen again when flying gliders!) I dont know how much a GR3 costed, but it seemd ironic that its flight safety was aided by a bit of wool!

    Last saw the Harrier in flight on December the 9th in Chatham four went over head in formation as I was walking 'home' (to the Cannon). I cannot tell you how sad I felt seeing them and how much anger I felt at the cnuts who decided to bin them!
  13. Fkin shot mate, when I first come across these SAPPER invented machines (all done in the Naafi break in Brompton 19 16) we knew then that the RAF had done their time, bring it back to the Corps, they cant maintain, operate or fight without us.
    The RAF write their own History well fk off back then, we the RE started it so lets take it back.
    Anyone up to take the Kites back ?