|Type||STOVL strike aircraft|
The BAE Systems/Boeing Harrier II (GR5, GR7, and GR9 series) is a second generation vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) jet aircraft used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and, since 2006, the Royal Navy. It was developed from the earlier Hawker Siddeley Harrier and is very closely related to the US built AV-8B Harrier II. Both are primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, and are often operated from small aircraft carriers.
Development of a successor to the first Harrier began as a cooperative effort between McDonnell Douglas (US) and Hawker Siddeley (UK). Cost overruns eventually led Hawker to withdraw from the project, but work continued due to US interest in the aircraft. Britain re-entered development in the late 1970s, producing their own version of the Harrier II based on the US design. For UK variants, BAE Systems is the prime contractor and Boeing a sub-contractor.
The Harrier II is an extensively modified version of the first generation Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR1/GR3 series which first flew in December 1967. The original aluminium alloy fuselage was replaced by a fuselage which makes extensive use of composites, providing significant weight reduction and increased payload/range. An all-new one piece wing provides around 14 per cent more area and increased thickness.
In RAF service, Harriers are used in the ground attack and reconnaissance roles. Unlike the Harrier AV8B+ upgrade, the RAF have chosen not to integrate a radar into its aircraft, although the aircraft retains an Inertial Navigation System. The primary air-to-air missile (AAM) of the Harrier is the infrared-homing AIM-9 Sidewinder (the combination of Harrier and Sidewinder proved effective against Argentinian Mirages in the Falklands conflict), but it does not carry the medium range AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. With the retirement of the Sea Harrier, it had been suggested that its Blue Vixen radar could be transferred to the GR9 fleet. However, the Ministry of Defence has rejected this as risky and too expensive. The Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram estimated that the cost would be in excess of £600m.
With the withdrawal of the Royal Navy's Sea Harrier in 2006, the RAF's Harrier fleet is tasked with the missions that it used to share with those aircraft. In 2006, the GR9 also entered service with the Fleet Air Arm when the first former Sea Harrier squadron reformed. The GR9 is expected to stay in service at least until 2015, when the first F-35s are due. At this point, the JSF force should be gaining an initial operational capability (IOC).
The GR7 had 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. This arrangement was formalised with the Joint Force Harrier, operating with the Royal Navy's Sea Harrier.
The GR7 formed the spearhead of the RAF's contribution to Operation Allied Force, the NATO mission in Kosovo. During this campaign the RAF identified significant shortcomings in its current arsenal. As a result the service ordered the AGM-65 Maverick stand off missile and the Enhanced Paveway which incorporates GPS guidance which would negate the effects of smoke and bad weather. Using the more updated ordnance as well as unguided iron and cluster munitions, RAF GR7's played a prominent role in Operation Telic, the UK contribution to the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003. RAF GR7's participated in strike and close air support missions throughout the conflict.
An RAF Harrier GR7A at RIAT 2005The GR7A is the first stage in an upgrade to the Harrier GR9 standard. The GR7A is the GR7 with an uprated Rolls-Royce Pegasus 107 engine. When upgraded to GR9 standard the uprated engine variants will retain the A designation, becoming GR9As. Forty GR7s are due to receive this upgrade. The Mk 107 engine provides around 3,000 lbf (13 kN) extra thrust than the Mk 105's 21,750 lbf (98 kN) thrust, increasing aircraft performance during "hot and high" and carrier-borne operations.
Units using the Harrier
- Royal Air Force
- No. 1 Squadron
- No. 3 Squadron (until 2006)
- No. 4 Squadron
- No. 20 Squadron
- RAF SAOEU Strike Attack Operational Evaluation Unit
- Royal Navy
- 800 Naval Air Squadron
- 801 Naval Air Squadron (from October 1 2006)
- General characteristics
- Crew: 1 or 2
- Length: 46 ft 4 in (14.1 m)
- Wingspan: 30 ft 4 in (9.2 m)
- Height: 11 ft 9 in (3.5 m)
- Wing area: 230 ft²
- 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 turbofan with four thrust vectored exhaust nozzles, 21,750 lb ()
- Upgraded powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce Pegasus Mk. 107, 23,800 lb for GR7A
- Maximum speed: 662 mph (1,065 km/h)
- Range: 2015 mi (km)
- Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
- Rate of climb: 40,000 ft/min (203.2 m/s)
- 2x 30mm ADEN cannons (one per pod)
- Paveway 2, Paveway III LGB, Paveway IV PGB, 540lb gravity bomb, 1000lb gravity bomb and 3kg & 14kg practice bombs
- Maverick, Brimstone, Sidewinder, ASRAAM
- CRV7 rocket pod
- Joint Reconnaissance Pod