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The first Royal Air Force unit has lost its Harrier GR9s after the shock news of the type's withdrawal from service.
The three Harriers are joined by the OC, Wg Cdr Davies in a Tornado GR4 for a final flypast over RAF Coningsby. Key – Gary Parsons
November 4: Nr. 41(R) Squadron based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire became the first Royal Air Force unit to lose its Harrier GR9s today as the three aircraft departed for RAF Cottesmore in Rutland.
The squadron is the Operational Evaluation Unit for the Harrier GR9 and Tornado GR4, but after the announcement of the axing of the Harrier in the recent Government Strategic Defence and Security Review will be left with just the Tornado.
“The announcement on October 19 was a complete surprise,” said Wing Commander Rich Davies, Officer Commanding 41(R) Squadron. “The official announcement came through the chain of command about two o’clock in the afternoon. It was a complete shock and hugely devastating. It was probably the worst day of my career.
“The timeline is perhaps the biggest shock – we all knew there would be dramatic cuts [in SDSR] but we didn’t think the timeline would be as quick as it’s been.” As well as losing three aircraft, four pilots are affected, although none of the engineering team is affected as they are all cross-skilled on both Tornado and Harrier.
Sqn Ldr Steve ‘Raz’ Berry is one of the four – “There’s a state of shell-shock [in the Harrier Force] on the front-line. Everyone’s chin is down – the Harrier Force as a whole is making sure that the drawdown in not done piece-meal and that everyone knows where they’re going.
“We were testing right to the end – we were three days off starting a really big programme at Boscombe Down that we’d cancelled leave for and were planning Saturday flying. You’re sprinting then suddenly told to stop, that momentum isn’t there any more.” Steve will be re-roled on to the Tornado GR4, as will another of his colleagues.
But 41’s work will continue – “We will gain another two Tornado GR4s to bring the total to five aircraft compared to the six we operated with both types,” said Wg Cdr Davies. “The team of engineers and analysts will remain unchanged.”
Any modifications that were on the Harriers specific to 41(R) have been removed and they will continue to fly from Cottesmore until the end of the year.
All because some berk at the ministery has decided we can only have two types of strike aircraft on the books. The Harrier, in any case should be a Navy or Army piece of kit not RAF. They are after all just jet powered helicopter gunships that get onto station quickly.
How would the army get on with just two types of rifle, or transport..send a land rover to do the job of a tank or troop carrier, I don`t think so... How would the navy do with two types of boat,would they send a minesweeper to do a job needed to be done by a destroyer, I don`t think so. These Harriers should be kept serviceable in hangars somewhere until they are needed, just in case, to be used by the navy from aircraft carriers.
The RAF need a diversity of aircraft to do key roles too. They need transports...fair enough, but who do they need transports for, more often than not its to move troops or equipment for troops, why should this come out of RAF coffers. They sub-hunt and minesweep,as do our submarines, this is for the country,this should be set aside, not the RAF to pay, why should this come out of RAF coffers. The helicopters should be pooled as with JHC and that should apply to UAV`s too..
But over and above that, the RAF need air-air superiority fast jets, ( Typhoon) of course. Ground attack ( Tornado) but also a lighter ground attack for close air support (Jaguar) style as well as the( Hawk) for jet lead in trainer with light attack capabilities of SDB`s, rocket pods, air to air missiles and cannon. Obvously long range and-or supersonic bomber platforms have been forgotten by HM government, even though they are still held with regard and importance by the Americans, Russians and Chinese to name a few.
Lee Tucker said on the 11-May-2010 at 01:42
All you Brits need to ask just one question of your Govt about this.
If or more correctly, when the F-35 program enters a death spiral (as it appears to be doing) and is either to expensive for a cash strapped MoD or cancelled as a program altogether, what will be on the decks of the new RN carriers?
It's ironic that the most precariously placed replacement program is the one that is seeing the incumbent axed first(Nimrod already being gone). That is very dangerous ground for your Govt, Navy and Air Force to be on.
ExHarrierGuy said on the 11-May-2010 at 07:37
WOW, sock it to 'em guys!
Thankfully you're not in Government, can you really not see the overall picture? We as a country, and Trio of Armed Forces are BROKE!
Something had to go and the best option was the Harrier.
Lee Tucker said on the 11-May-2010 at 08:06
No ExHarrierGuy, the best option would have been ditch the F-35. As I said it's looking increasing likely that the program will be far more expensive to procure with the just released word that US Sec Def Gates has been told that the F-35 across all models will now be at least 1.5 times more expensive to operate than the aircraft it replaces. How is ditching Harrier and keeping this pork barrel rolling on seeing the big picture? As I also said if this occurs then WHAT precisely do you propose the RN is going to do with two big multi billion pound carriers, how is that saving money in austere times?
And dont get me started on the debacle over canceling Nimrod, and early retirement of C-130J and Sentinel and speaking of saving money and pork barrels why not can A-400 instead.
You are right the UK is broke but many of the armed service cuts are ill advised and some retained programs unnecessary financial burdens.
ExHarrierGuy said on the 11-May-2010 at 08:23
With reference to the CARRIERS, we are in the extremely unfortunate position of inheriting a complete CLUSTERF*CK from the previous Labour Government!
When the original third option was cancelled, some fool accepted a change to the contract that would raise the cost of either or both of the remaining two. This meant if they were cancelled it would cost more than if we have them. They can and will be used by our ever increasing Helicopter force and eventually by the Joint Strike Fighter. Not a PERFECT situation I completely agree, but trying to make the best of a BLOODY POOR hand.
j.cassford said on the 11-May-2010 at 18:07
Have the Govt. already "sold" the Harriers? Otherwise, why can't they be stored?
Mike said on the 11-May-2010 at 20:00
Sad to see it go, I gave a few of my years working on them. Though I dont understand why people are ranting on about the Navy, as sad as it is, the FAA has never practised a CAP ever since loosing the shar.
Though now the whole point of a carrier is gone in the wind, with no current replacement clearly in sight.
Mike Yates said on the 11-May-2010 at 20:02
To reply to Lee, the aircraft flying from our carriers instead of F35 would seem to be F18`s as Australia or with Rafale, especially now with the French tie up. I believe RAF pilots are already flying F18`s from American carriers in training exercises, and of course French pilots have been flying from USA carriers as training.
Also, our country cannot be that broke, if we can can keep paying for immigrants to flood into the country with their families putting an unnaturally high cost to our education health and welfare state, when they have made little or no contribution in tax or NI payments into the system, I would have thought if we were broke,then the borders would be permamently closed for a while. If politicians cannot see that it is this more than anything else that is makintg us poor as a country, then we cannot be that broke!
As for the contracts...you can hardly blame the manufacturers..Bae I suppose we are on about here,..there have been that many changes and cuts to what has been asked to be developed in the past, the company has to look after its own interests.... Just look at Typhoon. If Bae had produced 250 of these for the RAF for Britain, like they had been initially ordered, Bae would now be sitting on 100 airframes with no one to buy, just because Britain changed its mind, at 160 jets. With Harrier, Bae have contracts to upgrade these last 70 airframes in the next few years, to keep them flying but Britain has axed them. Are Bae just to write off these contracts. To be honest if I were a company exec, I would not want to deal with such a customer, as MoD, that keeps moving the goalposts. Nimrod is the same.
The government seem to have this make do and mend attitude to some things. Old airframes instead of producing new ones, then when problems arise with the wings fitting (or not) and the radar, then the changes to the avionics, and Oh! can we fit a couple of missiles here, Oh! and a slush puppy machine in the galley, Oh! and a re-fueling probe, Oh! and more powerful engines, I mean ,come on guys, Bae can`t shoulder all of the blame all of the time.
As for the Harriers, they are to be scrapped, full stop. Only someone with a brain would keep `em in storage, but we are talking about the British Government here! so they won`t...
ExHarrierGuy said on the 11-Jun-2010 at 07:24
In reply to J. Cassford
The Harriers haven't been sold yet and will indeed go in to storage. The three from 41 Sqn arrived at Cottesmore on Thursday afternoon at 16:15 and even now are parked in 800 Sqns hangar.
So far the Portuguese and the Italians are rumoured to be interested in acquiring them, but wait till they are offered to the Chinese!!
Mike Yates said on the 11-Jun-2010 at 15:48
The Americans would like to buy them too, so they are not being cut because they are too old to bother with. With the recent upgrades, a foreign buyer will have some top spec machines. India would like to adorn the decks of their new ex-Russian aircraft carrier with "our" Harriers also, and Spain and Italy who already use them. Strange....considering that these are countries awaiting to use the F35`s.To me its strange that these countries can afford to run them when we apparently can`t..The Brits will be the only country to have an aircraft carrier and one "spare" and no jets to fly off them. The loss of a Great British invention. With a little luck, if they are sold, the cash might just cover 3 or maybe 4 f35`s.....