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It was always less bovver in the hover…

Mick Britton mourns the passing of the Harrier from RAF service.

17-Dec-2010


The 16-ship formation passes over RAF Wittering on December 14. Crown copyright/MoD 2010

Although former Defence Secretary Dennis Healey is generally considered something of a bete noire by UK aviation historians because of his cancellation of TSR2, he showed commendable foresight in selecting the Harrier, in addition to the F-4 Phantom, to re-equip the Royal Air Force’s front line in the mid-1960s, by placing an order for 48 examples (to supplement an initial buy of 12) in 1966. Deliveries commenced to 1 Squadron on April 1, 1969, at RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, ever since known as the ‘Home of the Harrier’.


The Harrier was developed from the Hawker P1127 Kestrel, itself an evolution of the P1127 prototype.
The squadron officially stood up on October 1 and its initial operations are recounted by one of its ‘old boys’, Michael Shaw, in his book entitled ‘No 1 Squadron’ published by Ian Allan in 1986. He notes that prior to conversion the pilots went to RAF Tern Hill to gain hovering experience on helicopters as there was no trainer version of the Harrier then in service. To compensate for this, pilots under conversion made their first flights in company with a Hunter flown by one of the four qualified Harrier instructors (who had received instruction from Hawker test Pilot Duncan Simpson). With work-up behind schedule due to problems with the Pegasus engine having a tendency to shed blades, which led to the Harrier being grounded for two months while Rolls-Royce attempted to sort the problem, Wg Cdr Ken Hayr arrived to take command of 1 Squadron in January 1970 with a brief to “get the squadron into shape”. This was done on a detachment to Cyprus in the spring where the better weather allowed them to catch up on the lost flying hours and indulge in a bit of ‘showing off’ (the first ever Harrier diamond nine being flown at RAF Akrotiri). The squadron arrived back a much slicker team and launched into a summer of short field exercises designed with the emphasis on mobility. After a further visit to Akrotiri for an armament practice camp, the squadron was declared fully operational in September and celebrated with a four aircraft role display at the Farnborough Airshow.


The Harrier GR1 was a basic machine equipped with rockets, bombs and a gun in a detachable fairing under the fuselage.
Meanwhile deliveries of aircraft to RAF Germany had commenced, where IV(AC) Squadron reformed on type at RAF Wildenrath in June with four pilots being posted in from 1 Squadron to provide a core of experience. This was the first of three squadrons planned for RAF Germany; the second (20 Squadron) re-formed in December, at about the same time as conversion became easier with the introduction of the twin-seat T2 into service. The third, 3 Squadron, formed in January 1972.


The Harrier GR3 featured improved sensors (such as a laser tracker in the lengthened nose), countermeasures and an upgraded Pegasus Mk 103 engine.
By 1977 20 Squadron had converted to the Jaguar and a subsequent reorganisation of RAF Germany’s basing policy saw the remaining two Harrier squadrons relocate to RAF Gutersloh, which was closer to the inner German border and thus the most vulnerable to attack, the logic being that any build-up to war would see the Harriers dispersed into the field. It was in Germany that the revolutionary application of Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing operations to the tactics of air warfare was taken to the absolute limit on field exercises with Harriers operating from dispersed sites, not only in forests but in all manner of locations from rural barns to supermarket car parks! The squadrons got used to living rough in the field alongside the Army, wearing combat dress rather than uniform with the ground crews having to be multi-skilled and prepared to fight if necessary. It would be another ten years before this practice became the norm on all RAF main operating bases.


Harriers would operate from hides in the forests of Germany during World War III.
The Harrier’s effectiveness in the close air support (CAS) role was amply demonstrated in Exercise ‘Big Tee’, held in the Stanford Battle Area in Norfolk over a three-day period in May 1974 when 12 Harriers, comprising those of 1 Squadron augmented by others from Germany flew 364 sorties, delivering 1.1 million pounds of bombs, 13,000 rockets and 77,000 Aden cannon rounds. Another eight years were to elapse before it was to prove itself in combat in the Falklands War, into which 1 Squadron was pitched in May 1982 operating from HMS Hermes. The squadron is credited with turning the tide at the Battle of Goose Green with its dusk attack on the Argentine artillery, which had the assaulting Paras pinned down, undermining the enemy’s morale and leading to its surrender next morning. This was at the cost of one of the Harriers downed by anti-aircraft fire. The ground attacks were generally carried out delivering Cluster Bomb Units, 1,000lb bombs and two inch rockets or strafing with the Aden cannon. By the end of the conflict they had also carried out the first successful attacks with Laser Guided Bombs (LGB) on an artillery position defending Port Stanley. Of the ten Harrier GR3s flown in theatre, three were lost in action and a fourth so badly damaged as to be written off. At the end of hostilities the remaining aircraft went ashore and formed the Harrier Detachment (later named 1435 Flight) assuming a new air defence role equipped with AIM-9G Sidewinders, for which they had received wiring before leaving the UK in the expectation that they may have been needed as Sea Harrier replacements.


The Harrier GR5 was a very different aircraft to the GR3, sharing little in its construction.
Enter the Harrier II
The GR3s remained in theatre until 1985 when the air defence role was assumed by F-4 Phantoms from 23 Squadron. Four new-build Harriers were duly ordered as replacements to maintain the fleet at its previous level, bringing the total RAF purchase of first-generation Harriers to 118, but by then a second-generation aircraft was on its way, the UK Government having signed in August 1981 a Memorandum of Understanding with the USA to purchase the Harrier II (AV-8B) that had been developed by McDonnell Douglas. Designated the GR5 in RAF service, 62 examples were purchased and built under licence by BAe Aerospace at Kingston in Surrey.


A Harrier GR7 in Operation 'Warden' colours.
The Harrier II had a beefed-up version of the Pegasus engine (Mk 105) and a large composite wing with more hard points for weaponry, doubling the payload and range performance. The maiden flight took place on April 30, 1985, the first example (ZD232) being delivered to RAF Wittering exactly two years later. Conversion training was a world away from the seat-of-the-pants approach of the 1960s as a Computer Based Trainer (CBT) was developed to familiarise student pilots (who were initially all experienced GR3 pilots) with the aircraft systems over a course of six lessons. At the end of each lesson a simulated mission was flown to test that it had been successfully absorbed. After this the student pilot graduated onto the Harrier Avionics Systems Trainer, a crude type of simulator that had to be mastered before being let loose on the real aircraft. Describing the preparation for the GR5’s entry to service in the publication ‘Royal Air Force 89’ by Sqn Ldr Pete Broekhuizen of the Harrier Conversion Team, he noted that “While the GR5 is easier to fly than previous marks of Harrier, it is many times harder to operate successfully.” The article concluded with reference to the need for further training when the GR5 became the ‘night bird’ GR7 fitted with night-attack avionics and the Zeus Electronics Counter-Measure (ECM) system to facilitate around-the-clock operations. In April 1988 a follow-on order had been placed for another 34 Harrier GR7s, the first of which was delivered to 4 Squadron at RAF Gutersloh on September 12, 1990. Shortly after, a contract was placed with BAe Aerospace to bring the remaining 58 GR5s up to GR7 standard.

In 1992 it was necessary for the two RAF Germany squadrons to detach to RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire in order to conduct night training as German tolerance of low-level flying had evaporated at the end of the Cold War. Although not involved in the 1991 Gulf War, the type was deployed to Incirlik in Turkey for Operation ‘Warden’, the air policing of northern Iraq, followed in 1995 by Operation ‘Deny Flight’ over Bosnia and then Operation ‘Allied Force’ over Kosovo, in which 1 Squadron alone flew 800 combat missions resulting in it being awarded the Kosovo battle honour to add to the one gained in the South Atlantic. Shortly after its return, in 2000, 1 Squadron relocated the short distance to RAF Cottesmore in Rutland, where it joined the other two Harrier squadrons that had arrived from Germany the previous year.


The Harrier GR9 was the ultimate version, especially when fitted with the Pegasus Mk 107 engine.
The Harrier was soon called into action again during the second Gulf War of 2003 when, operating from Ali Al Salem in Kuwait, it provided air support for the British assault on Basrah, winning yet another battle honour. By now the GR7 had been joined by the T10 trainer and was also the subject of a multi-million pound upgrade programme to GR9 standard, which featured better avionics, advanced precision weaponry and improved communications. This latest mark equipped Joint Force Harrier (formed by merging the Royal Navy’s former Sea Harrier squadrons with the RAF Harrier force in April 2006) and was at the forefront of Operation ‘Herrick’ in Afghanistan for six years providing close air support for hard-pressed NATO ground forces. Replaced in theatre by the Tornado GR4 in the summer of 2009, the Harrier force returned home to RAF Cottesmore in time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the type’s entry to RAF service.


A final formation of special markings was flown on December 13 to mark the standing down of Joint Force Harrier, 1(F) Squadron, 4(R) Squadron and 800 Naval Air Squadron. Crown copyright/MoD 2010
But before the end of the year, in an emergency statement by the Defence Secretary to address the spiralling budget, the beginning of the end was revealed with the announcement that RAF Cottesmore was to close in 2011 and the immediate disbandment of one of its squadrons. Thus, in a parade held at the base at the end of March 2010, IV(AC) Squadron was stood down and its number plate transferred to the Operational Conversion Unit, confining 20 Squadron to history. With the change in government after the indecisive 2010 General Election, the impetus for savings to redress the UK’s astronomical budget deficit led to the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in October, which contained a bizarre twist – while the two aircraft carriers on order were spared, the Harrier, the only aircraft type in the MoD’s inventory capable of operating from them, was to be retired. This decision has deprived us of the opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this revolutionary aircraft, but perhaps we should be grateful for the RAF’s decision to return it to the airshow circuit in 2010 because at least this gave us one last chance to marvel at its unique attributes.

Images via the author unless stated otherwise.

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63 Comments

Ian Goldstraw said on the 23-Dec-2010 at 14:57

I find it ironic that there are more airworthy Hurricanes flying, now that the Harriers have been grounded!!

Michael Shaw said on the 7-Feb-2011 at 08:00

Excellent post, PMM. In my present life as a financial planner I know what an accurate picture of history you paint. And Rev, I fear your optimism is misplaced. Russian junk, as you call it, may lack sophistication but it makes up for that in ruggedness. The transports of choice in the third world (and even in the UN) are mostly made by MiL and Antonov. The AK-47 is rarely known to jam. The Chinese, for their part, should not be under-estimated. They still come to the West for our intellectual property, but once they absorb the design skills, watch out; they already have the manufacturing skills. The rate they are turning out engineering graduates is really scary. When I arrived at RAF College Cranwell in 1960 our humanities tutor told me:
"If you are an optimist, you'll learn Russian, if you are pessimist, choose Chinese". I chose to study Russian and I now think that was a mistake

Rev John W Turner said on the 7-Feb-2011 at 17:03

Mr Shaw---I may be as you say optimistic and I am also opinionated when it comes to our military. I've not kept up very much on your military and I've managed to keep up some on the Israeli military; that being said, I have caught up on enough articles through the internet that have stated that any and all Russian designed and built military eguipment was flat out junk. Rugged they might be but junk nonetheless. The Chinese may be very intelligent when it comes to copying other equipment from others but, in my mind, mine only, they lack that something that prevents them from making just that, a copy, and a poor copy at best. Please forgive me if I sound hard-headed about all this but for all of their so-called expertise, in my eyes they come up short of the mark. I'm not very computor literate so I have a difficult time finding things on the internet like I would very much like to. But once in a great while i do manage to stumble onto things that I find interesting. As a minister of the Gospel I shouldn't be as interested in military things as I am but I believe in using absolute force to meet force. And that is one of the reasons I think China will tread softly when it comes to facing off to, not only our Air Force but our blue water navy. Does that make me slow?? Perhaps. In your eyes it may even make me child-like in my belief. And that's ok . I do appreciate however your candor. Hope you will not think shabbily of me. God bless.

Michael Shaw said on the 13-Feb-2011 at 07:47

Thanks Mick for a really good summary of the Harrier's wonderful era. One slight omission is the two deployments to Belize in the 1970s which were instrumental in confounding Guatemalan ambitions to invade the former colony.

As you say, I'm one of the "old boys" now - 70 this year. At least that's what it says on my passport; I don't really beleve it myself. I'm happy to report that many of the surviving originals are still in touch with each other and are mostly in great shape.

One other thing you did not mention is the terrible toll in young lives we lost along the way - including six pilots killed out of the 36 on the Wildenrath wing while I was on my second tour on 3 Sqn in 72-74. My thoughts go back to them very frequently.

I am stlll grappling with the fact that the Harrier force is no more. I cannot believe the stupidity of this decision which leaves our nation bereft of a mobile strike force capable of intervening worldwide. The Air Force Board bears a heavy responsibility in this, and I'm ashamed to realise that inter-service rivalry paid a large part in the decision to switch at the last minute from reducing the Tornado force to scrubbing the Harrier entirely. Money had little to do with it, it was motivated by their airships desire to kill off the Fleet Air Arm's fixed-wing capability so that the RAF has the monopoly on fighter skills when/if the F-35 eventually arrives.

When the axe fell in December I was in Bombay. Tied up at the naval base there lies the former HMS Hermes, complete with her ski-jump and her compliment of Indian Navy Sea Harriers. I saluted the old girl with the sad thought that India (to whom we still give foreign aid) seems to be able to afford a Harrier force, while we cannot.

Funny old world, isn't it?

Thanks Harrier, it was mostly lots of fun.

Mike

kchatto said on the 27-Feb-2011 at 07:27

Dear Micheal Shaw, One correction, still India not UK Gives foriegn aid to GB since days of WW I, buying some hardware shall not be misinterpreted, pls see the whole picture, Happy landings mate

PMM said on the 6-Mar-2011 at 23:51

Rev John, i can't say I'm a great fan of the F35B, the design concept is very poor for a war plane. Far too many moving parts, doors and fans, any one of which will put the plane in the drink if they are damaged. The Harrier concept is so simple, it's brilliant.
Our new carriers will have the F35C and will launch conventionally. They'll weigh in at about 70,000 tons, so not as big as the Nimitz class. But they'll still be the biggest ships that we've ever had. Unfortunately, they have been delayed due to the crisis, so the first one might not be in service until 2019. That's a lot of time for a blue water navy to have no fast air. The obvious question will be asked; if we can do without carriers for 8-10 years, why do we need them. If one can only see to the end of ones nose, then they have a point.
We should at least keep the harriers to fly of our two remaining flat tops.
One bit of good news is that the carrier that was to be called HMS Prince of Wales (the last one fought with Bismark) is now likely to named HMS Ark Royal.





kchatto said on the 12-Mar-2011 at 12:51

Dear PMM: Chinese Not Indians dump around with cheap goods which consists 93% of retail goods in your market, Indians supply top of line product,consedering godwill and demand prize machanism, As about Indians we will be putting around four to six Carriers in water in short timeframe, as chinese have successfully launched 'The Varyag' and we will be putting fixed wing Naval LCA with Thrust vectoring to give VSTOL and if co-op with russians hope then the YAk 141 will be resurrected, Because this Yank-Brit mixup in Afganistan will complicate further, as the Pakistani Land blockade to afganistan and freezing of Salang highway to Soviet will lead to urgent move to liberate Pakitan Occupied Kashmir ringing struggle of between Pakistani-chinese and Indian, US, UK

PMM said on the 6-Apr-2011 at 00:14

Rev John, You probably already know this, but we were working on a fully supersonic harrier (P1154)in the 60s, but it got axed. Have a look at the site below, you can see were some of the F35B ideas may have come from (HS1192).

http://www.harrier.org.uk/history/projects.htm

Rev John W Turner said on the 6-Apr-2011 at 01:24

PMM---I knew that our military[The Marines]adapted the Harrier from you all, but I did not know that the entire concept went back that far. From the time I first went into the Air Force{1956} until I got out{1964}, there was a lot going on and a lot of changes and they were all difficult to keep up with or fathom the reasoning for some of it. You take care and God bless.

Rev John W Turner said on the 6-Apr-2011 at 01:25

PMM---I knew that our military[The Marines]adapted the Harrier from you all, but I did not know that the entire concept went back that far. From the time I first went into the Air Force{1956} until I got out{1964}, there was a lot going on and a lot of changes and they were all difficult to keep up with or fathom the reasoning for some of it. You take care and God bless.

Michael Shaw said on the 6-Apr-2011 at 07:46

PMM/ Rev John:
The Harrier project grew from the ashes of the P1154, which was cancelled in 1964 by the incoming Labour government under Harold Wilson along with TSR2 supersonic strike bomber and a V/STOL transport aircraft the size of a C-130. I remember being outraged by all this at the time, but when we finally got our hands on Harrier in 1969 we realised that P1154 was hopelessly ambitious and ahead of its time (as were the other two projects). PMM I agree with your point about the simplicity of Harrier vs F35. The integration of wing-borne to jet-borne flight is seamless and is so simple that people were amazed when they were shown how it all worked. I too worry about the gap in our naval fast-jet capability, and it would not surprise me if we never regained it. The complexity and cost of F35 and the new carriers may prove insurmountable. Let's hope that the current resurgence in democracy in the middle east and in places like Argentina render these behemoths unnecessary.

Rev John W Turner said on the 6-Apr-2011 at 16:01

I remember reading about the TSR2 and never really understood why it was not followed up by further research. But had never heard of a V/STOL the size of a C-130. That would be a sight. I worked around the C-130's for about 6 months and they are quite a bird. With the exception of the Gooney Bird, I think this aircraft will go down in history as one of the great ones. As to your mention of the aircraft carriers---in my minature little mind, I am of the opinion that they will long outlive me and quite a few others. They are a much needed piece of military hardware. Take care and God bless.

PMM said on the 8-Apr-2011 at 18:36

Michael, Thanks for the bad news. I read on the other harrier page that they were going to be ground run in early August. Do you know anything about that/ fact or rumour?
Also, I caught the news up in Scotland that the first major section of the QE super carrier is completed and on a barge destined for Rosyth for assembly. it looked very big! I was reading a book on carriers (US) it took the USN 3 years to build USS Enterprise at the start of the 60s, I wonder why it's taking us 7 years to build QE.
Michael/Rev John
If anyone's interested, the carrier construction web site is below. Some good videos of the construction sequence (not yet updated for the catobar mod/F35C)
The deck elements are due to leave Tyneside for Rosyth on the 26th August. It's just down the road from me, so I might go and have a look.

http://www.aircraftcarrieralliance.co.uk/media/video-library.aspx

PMM said on the 8-Apr-2011 at 19:27

Other link for the latest on the carrier
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-14349715

Rev John W Turner said on the 5-May-2011 at 04:42

As an American, I don't feel it right to comment on your government deciding to can the Harrier. Maybe someone there will convince them to mothball the aircraft and save them from the scrap yard in the event they are ever needed once again. My wife and I happen to think they are a really neat aircraft and you can send one here for us to keep in our front yard.

Michael Shaw said on the 6-May-2011 at 07:15

Hi John

Check out the HS681 on Wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armstrong_Whitworth_AW.681

You are of course right about the need for big fleet carriers, I just wish we could really afford them in our little island. I once spent a day on USS Midway operating in the Indian Ocean. Flew in and out on on a C-2 Greyhound (scary!) for a memorable and awesome day with the F-4 boys. Glad to hear she's now preserved as a museum in San Diego. I hope such a dignified retirement awaits HMS Ark Royal.

Rumour has it that the Indian navy is negotiating for the Joint Force Harrier fleet.

Cheers

Mike

Rev John W Turner said on the 6-May-2011 at 15:19

Mr Shaw---I'm jealous that you got to fly into a flattop--and I can only imagine when you say scary but I'll bet that you'll never give back that thrill. As a tied to the ground fly boy, that is one thrill I'll never get to experience. Even though I love to fly, the Air Force doesn't do carrier landings. In your country's history and mine, there is and will be again, flattops to protect our shores. I seem to remember that it was your fly boys that taught our marine pilots to land F4U bentwings onto our carriers during WW2. Never know---may well be a time when your pilots can teach ours a thing or two once again. Take care and God bless.

Michael Shaw said on the 12-May-2011 at 07:27

The sale of the UK Harrier fleet to the USMC has now been confirmed, as rumoured above.

During a trip to New York in October I visited USS Intrepid, now a naval aviation museum at Pier 36 on the Hudson River. Don't miss it if you are ever in NYC. Down at the end of the flight deck is one of the original AV-8A airframes, just like my old GR1 from 1969. Very nostalgic!

PMM said on the 27-May-2011 at 22:25

Rev: Mrs T was pretty good when it came to defending the faith?

(Sorry - that's Mrs Thatcher, not your missus)

Rev John W Turner said on the 28-May-2011 at 01:10

Maybe you can talk Mrs Thatcher into coming out of retirement and help to straighten out an ugly dilemma. Unfortunetly Reagan is dead and President Bush has already been elected 2 terms so we have to find a Christ believing, God fearing person[man or woman] to run for president and help put this country back on the right track. I'll not apologize for sermonizing but thats how I feel. May God richly bless you and your family.

PMM said on the 29-May-2011 at 01:35

I'm afraid she has lost the plot a bit due to old age. Last time I saw her on TV, she was a sandwich short of a picnic. I think she left office at about the right time. We could do with another like her though, but with a slightly kinder approach to the working classes. She slaughtered UK heavy industry. She shut the ship yards in my home town, lots of friends and family suffered badly as a result. However, she and Reagan had a good understanding and she wouldn't let anyone push the UK around; as the Argentineans found to their cost. Harrier did quite well in that conflict. Oh and thanks for the sidewinders by the way.

Rev John W Turner said on the 29-May-2011 at 02:03

Not only in that little roundabout, but in several places around the world felt the sting from a Harrier. Maybe, just maybe the F-35 will help ease the loss of the Harrier. Remember the line from Forest Gump--"Momma always said stupid is as stupid does". God bless you.

Michael Shaw said on the 29-May-2011 at 07:37

News that 8 Apaches on HMS Ocean will join the fray over Libya does raise an ironic smile in me. The reason given is the lack of close air support and their ability to discriminate targets at closer range then the present heavy stuff done from 15,000ft by NATO. In Afghanistan Joint Force Harrier was known to engage targets less than 50m from own troops, and even back in Aden the Hunters were strafing targets as close as that.

Ark Royal with Harriers embarked might well have turned the tide around Misrata weeks earlier.

What a dreadful decision that is turning out to be...

Rev John W Turner said on the 29-May-2011 at 14:29

When a government tries fighting a war or any action from a desk, and does not let it's military do the job it was trained to do, you wind up with the cart before the horse. And tons of stupid decisions. The scrapping of needed ships and/or needed aircraft[with out suitable replacements] because the politicos want to keep their big paychecks and also want to look good in the eyes of the voters. Which traditionally leaves the military fighting a war with rocks and sticks. Either way it goes, we, those that care about our fighting troops, and those doing the fighting, are the losers. God bless you and yours.

pmm said on the 6-Jun-2011 at 00:24

Rev/ mike,
I'd love to experience acarrier landind too.
The indians are down to 12 functioning harriers so they are already below Hermes full load capability. They'll get a good deal if they buy ark royal as well, since it was recently re-fitted. That's how they might spend the £825m we've just given them in development aid. Having been there recently, it doesn't seem to be spent on the weak and needy.

pmm said on the 6-Jun-2011 at 00:35

Mike,
I always hoped that bae would make a sea harrier 3 based on the harrierII. That would have been some machine, with decent CAP capability and all the payload of H2. It could have had the Typhoon's radar to boot.
Now it will never happen. Sad times.

PMM said on the 14-Jun-2011 at 23:02

kchatto
I mean UK give India £825m to spend on improving the lives of the poor and needy in India (there are lots of them). The Indian government spend huge amounts on weapons. So why do we feed your (assuming you are Indian) poor while you buy weapons with your own money.
Last time i looked the taliban didn't have a navy.
You lost me a bit with the last part of your text.
The point is India don't need our aid and we would be better to spend it maintaining our armed forces. (Harriers and Ark Royal)

PMM said on the 14-Jun-2011 at 23:04

Kchatto,
The criticism is aimed at UK Gov - not India. If some bloke came and offered me £825M and didn't really care what I spent it on, I'd probably take it as well.

Pete Broekhuizen said on the 22-Jun-2011 at 17:58

Dear Mike,

What a splendid article, thanks for the mention. I was the fortunate Training Officer (Education Branch) that was posted to the Harrier Force. The best tour of my career and I met the best bunch of professional avaitors that there are. I have joined the HFA and look forward to seeing many of the team then.

Pete Broekhuizen RAF rtd

Michael Shaw said on the 23-Jun-2011 at 09:24

Hi Pete

When were you serving with the Harrier? My time was in the early Bronze Age of the force. Sorry I can't make the HFA weekend in July. Saw lots of the older Harrier mates at the Cotswold Air Show on Sunday when we were celebrating the 60th anniversary of that even lovlier creation of Sidney Camm - the Hawker Hunter. They had 7 privately-owned Hunters airborne - a wonderful sight. I wonder how long it will be before someone gets his hands on a privately-owned Harrier?

Incidentally the word among the boys is that the USMC are negotiating for our 80-odd airframes - for use as spares! oh, yuk.

Rev John W Turner said on the 23-Jun-2011 at 14:25

Hey kiddies----wouldn't you rather see the Marine Corp have these birds to be used as spares than see them chopped up for coke cans ?? I understand your thoughts about these birds, I have the same feeling when it comes to older prop driven but maybe, just maybe a few of these air frames might even make it back into the air. We will probably never know unless one of our government lackies deem it necessary to let us poor folks know about it. God bless.

Rev John W Turner said on the 23-Jun-2011 at 20:46

To all concerned---I just read an article on the internet about the row over the Falklands--and in that article was a picture of the aircraft carrier the HMS Invincible being broken up. I can remember when the war with Argentina was fought and without the carriers AND the harrier that battle may have gone the other way. Since I don't live there in England, I have no understanding of the commotion over all this and could use some if possible. And the article I read mentioned that you all would probably not expect help from obama. And THAT is truely sad. God bless

PMM said on the 24-Jun-2011 at 01:00

Rev,
We had three invincible class carriers all of which flew the Harrier in one form or another. Invincible played a key part in the Falklands in 1982, along with HMS Hermes, an older conventional carrier fitted with a ski jump for Harrier ops. Hermes is now serving with the indian navy flying Sea Harrier Mk1.
Invincible was taken out of service ~2005 and was stated as being ready at short notice. In actual fact, she was raped for spares to the point where she was useless. She was scheduled to be scrapped in 2010, so off she went to Turkey ( about 6 weeks ago) and the last I saw, she had been cut back to her second funnel.
The two other Invincible class, Ark Royal and Illustrious were under construction when the Falklands kicked off. HMS Illustrious just missed the war but relieved Invincible immediately afterward, following the Argies surrender. Ark Royal, the newest ship, has just been withdrawn, purely for financial reasons and is up for sale. HMS Illustrious has just come out of re-fit and will rejoin the fleet as a Marine helicopter carrier, replacing HMS Ocean (a cheap, 'commercial' standard helicopter carrier) which is scheduled for re-fit. So the RN has gone from 4 carriers to 2 in 6 years. The entire harrier force is mothballed, awaiting disposal.
Keeping Ark Royal and scrapping Ocean was probably a more sensible option, as the Ark is a full military spec ship rather than a ferry with a flat top.
An ideal time to launch a war against a country with it's cities on the Med coast.
The UK gov has also scrapped all of the type 22 frigates, mothballed one of our two Marine Assault ships and sold another Auxilliary Assault ship to Austrailia.(1/4)
Still we can always play parasite to the US tax payers and rely on your navy ( shameful, but true )
I hope that helps. Rule Britania; I'm off to let my blood boil some more.

Rev John W Turner said on the 24-Jun-2011 at 01:35

Not long ago, I heard rumors of our government thinking of withdrawing several of our fleet carriers because of the expense. These bad boys are what keeps the idiots of the world at bay. The air forces of most countries couldn't take on just one of our carriers because "their" air force is far to small and ill equipted. And beside that, your pilots and ours, with the exception of Israel, are the best trained in the world. Somewhere along the way, here's hoping your government and mine gets a little sense about themselves without getting it out of a cracker jack box. God bless.

pmm said on the 25-Jun-2011 at 01:16

Rev, The only light at the end of the tunnel is that we have two super carriers under construction. The rub is that we are killing our current naval air arm before the new one's in place. In one years time, when Ark and the hariers are gone, we would not be capable of recovering the falkands again. This approach is too short sighted and the work of fools.

Michael Shaw said on the 25-Jun-2011 at 06:48

Pmm/Rev: Yes, two super-carriers with no fixed-wing jets to fly off them until the Navy version of F-35 comes along in ?2018 / ?2020 / ?ever. There are doubts about the V/STOL future of F35. What on earth are we going to do with these behemoths if that version is abandoned? Already there is talk of one being mothballed and the other sold to the French. Nelson must be turning in his grave! Cancelling the contracts would cost more than continuing to build the ships, and would cost thousands of jobs in safe Labour-held parliamentary seats, which is why they were not cancelled before the last election, by when it had become obvious that they were unaffordable in our present circumstances. Our present government inherited this mess from the last bunch of clowns, and is stuck with it.

Rev, I do agree with your comment about preferring our Harriers to be broken up for spares for USMC than be turned into coke cans - I was just sorry to hear they would never fly again.

Rev John W Turner said on the 25-Jun-2011 at 23:25

Some where along the way----those in power, both your government and mine seem to have lost their grip on reality. All one has to do is look around and pay attention to SEE that without a mobile Navel capability which includes carriers WITH aircraft, we might as well be throwing bb's at an elephant. The Japanese attacked Pearl; Germany attacked your country; And the heads of our countries are NOT prepared for an attack from the outside any more that we were prepared for 9/11. Truly stupid on their part. Somebody find us a Churchhill and a Reagan. God bless.

PMM said on the 27-Jun-2011 at 23:10

Michael,
As part of the SDSR (the recent defense review in the UK Rev), Cameron re-specified the QE carriers to have catobar, so the ramps are gone and so is the need for the F35B VSTOL.
The carriers will get the F35C which is the more capable and cheaper Navy version, as allocated to the USN. This was one shred of sanity that came from that otherwise loathsome document.
This also means that the carriers will be able to operate F18 or Rafale (perish the thought). The F35B might well crash and burn (one way or the other) as it's based on some pretty fragile engineering, but I think the F35C is a pretty smart option. I don't agree with your opinion on the QE carriers, as I think they will bring the RN back to reasonable strength, especially if accompanied by a decent fleet of Type 45 destroyers. They are designed with high levels of automation and will have running costs closer to Invincible than Nimitz. The USN are taking a similar approach to the USS Ford, which is the successor to the Nimitz class super carrier.

Going back to the QE carriers, what beggars belief is that these things ever had ramps in the first place. Why build a 70,000ton carrier capable of launching any navy plane on the planet and then restrict it to Harrier and F35B. The Harrier is good and I can't believe we have withdrawn them along with our Invincible class carriers, but as navy fast air, I'd rather have a phantom or F18 any day.
I assume that the admiralty had some say in the spec of these beasts; what were they drinking when they opted for ramps and no arrestor gear?

By the time these ships join the fleet, the world could be a very diffewrent place. China will be sailing carriers in the med and in the South Atlantic, sniffing around for oil. We'll be glad to have some decent kit to keep them in check. I can see the US having some real problems in the next ten years with their defecit and if China/Russia/India start to trade oil out of the USD, the states could have a problem funding such a large military.
I didn't really mind handing the rule of the waves to our cousins in the US, but China with a significant blue water fleet? :very worrying.

The RN has subs second to none, but the surface fleet is looking threadbare. Two carriers and some decent destroyers would be very welcome. we need to stop buying cheap Chinese/Indian goods and rebuild industry in the 1st world; supporting a decent military wouldn't be a problem then.

Rev John W Turner said on the 28-Jun-2011 at 00:05

PMM----I like many of your thoughts on the carriers and agree that, as good as the Harriers are, F18's and F35c's are an excellant option will be a good addition, not only your carriers but ours as well. And not knowing what a type 45 tin can happens to be, I can only go along with your assessment. And far as China's so-called blue water navy, I think these bozos need to re-think any thought of getting in the way of your country's and mine blue water navy for any of their short-sighted ideas. We have a term for people like that---we call them too big for their britches---and that's where they're at. In my mind it would be stone ignorant on their part to ever think their navy was anywhere near our capabilities. I don't think that they are looking for a fight but?? I do believe that there is enough navy around, along with ground type aircraft to give them a good share of grief, from your navy and/or ours. And I think that goes for Argentina.

Michael Shaw said on the 28-Jun-2011 at 06:42

Good post pmm. You are clearly more up to speed on naval matters and F35 than me. I hadn't realised that the QE class originally had no wires or cats.

PMM said on the 29-Jun-2011 at 00:17

Rev: Going into WW2, The RN was the biggest navy in the world followed very closely by the USN. The UK operated the gold standard for currency exchange. Coming out of the war, the UK was broke, so the USD was benchmarked as the new gold standard (Bretton Woods). The US would fix the price of gold against the dollar ($35/ounce). This meant that the US greenback was the currency to be in, as it was backed by gold. The currency was adopted for oil trading. The USD gold link was broken (by Nixon) after Vietnam (the US was broke). However all oil was still traded in USD and that's pretty much how it is today. While the US is the economic super power, this will remain the case. If, however China becomes big enough, they could leverage oil sales in a convertible Chinese currency. The subsequent switch from USD to China$ would mean many countries would have no need for large reserves of USD and would convert them into other currencies. This would crash the dollar and snap the US economy. It is at this point that the US would struggle to maintain such a large and effective military. Also at this point, China would get a major boost to its wealth and as the new economic super power, could catch and pass the USA as a military power. This is in effect what happened between the UK and the US after WW2. Coming out of WW2, there was the USN and the RN and no other navy of any consequence whatsoever. The USN is still the largest and supported by a heavily ‘deficited’ economy held together by oil trading (the new gold), meanwhile the RN is at the lowest point since the 1400s. The Chinese military might be a bit of a joke at the moment, but if the west doesn't stop haemorrhaging economic power to China, the simple economics will catch us all with our pants down.
Look what the Soviets did (militarily) with communism and a garbage economy. What can the Chinese achieve with totalitarian capitalism?

Sorry it's not very hardware biased, but I just wanted to explain the background to my previous comments on the risk to western military funding.
(This is so dry, I nearly didn't post it.)

Rev John W Turner said on the 29-Jun-2011 at 21:06

PMM----I enjoyed what you wrote down. Some may not but!! I fully realize that China may be able to field a large land army or put in the air a fairly good amount of aircraft, but in my jaded way of looking at their military, they could hurt either one of us but I really don't believe for one small moment their air force could do much more than show up. I've read on the internet that the Chinese air force was trying to build or they had built a so-called super fighter similar to our F-22. But looking back through history, the best they ever could do was copy Russian junk. Like I said, if I appear jaded toward our equipment, I think you'll understand. The UK has built some fine aircraft over the years as well as our air force; so as I wrote , their air force could only make an appearance and that is how I think of their blue water navy; they will make an appearance--and then what ?? Even if they put to sea their so-called carrier; it is only a rebuilt piece of Russian junk. The pictures I saw did nothing to impress me.

PMM said on the 7-Jul-2011 at 00:22

Rev/Michael,
The USN is undoubtedly the most powerful navy on the planet; supreme, as are the other US armed forces. At last count I think the USN had 10 Nimitz size carriers and 11 45,000ton Marine carriers. That's a lot of flat top. The next biggest carrier force was the RN with 4 22,000 ton carriers, a very poor second. One Chinese carrier refurbished from an old Russian ship isn't going to threaten the naval dominance of the US. In reality, the RN could probably best the Chinese navy, even in its current run down condition. The question is if China pass the US economically, what would the pattern be? The country with the most money can afford the best toys? But, are they clever enough to dream up the best toys. Or will they be restricted to large numbers of inferior equipment? Most of the worlds great inventions are the product of a hand full of countries. Rev, you may have a point here. Again, there are examples in history where a nation with a clear advantage didn't have the inventive capability to capitalise. The classic, for me, would be the Japanese in WW2. At the start of the war, the zero was one of the best planes around. American war planes were pretty basic by comparison. Fast forward four years. The zero was virtually unchanged, while the US fighters were top draw. This showed that once isolated from external advance, the Japanese were lost. Compare that to Germany/UK/US in the same period: radar, jet engines, rocketry to name a few.
Would China be the same today? I really don't know.
I'd still advocate trade restrictions to prevent the west losing industry to China and India. When the chips are down, Industry is might. You can't build warships, tanks and planes with a clever series of index linked financial packages. Make what you need and trade any surplus, it's a winning formula. Both the UK and US need to get back to this basic philosophy. We invented it and are now watching as the Chinese demonstrate it.

Michael Shaw said on the 7-Jul-2011 at 06:53

Rev: Your robust views on the state of the world are most refreshing; please don't think I was talking you down. This is a stimulating exchange of views and information which I value.

PMM: Interesting points. A good example of the Chinese intentions towards world hegemony is their attempt to corner the market in Rare Earth Elements (REE), so important in hi-tech manufacturing of cellphones, laptops, wind turbines and, yes, laser-guided weapons. They managed to drive down the prices of these elements in the 1990's before their value was truly recognised by industry and the politicians. The result was the closing of the only REE mines in the US such as Molycorp's Mountain Pass; China currently controls 97% of the mining of REE, often in appalling conditions in the mines in Manchuria. Fortunately REE are not actually that rare, so the race is on to develop alternative deposits in Canada, S Africa, Greenland and now the Japanese have discovered minable deposits on the seabed around Hawaii. Another good example of the West's adaptability!

Rev John W Turner said on the 7-Jul-2011 at 13:18

Mr Shaw----I didn't think a first ugly thought about what you said or how you said it. I am not the sharpest tool in God's tool box and try very hard to accept any one's thoughts and ideas. Where I have to learn to watch my tongue is when it lashes out at the stupidity of the Islamic religion. As a willing servant of the true Living God, I tend to unload both barrels. And sometimes have my mouth in motion before my brain is in gear.After writing to you and PMM, you folks evidently have a far better grip and knowledge on most things military than I do or probably will ever have. Far too much of my knowledge, understanding, and belief in the capabilities of our military and yours is very dated. Although, I still would rather have a compliment of Marines [yours or ours] protecting my worthless hide than any other force in this world. As i mentioned before, I am very computor illiterate and usually the only way I find fresh up to date information is by accident. So, having said all of that, I really look forward to and enjoy the e-mails that you all send. Please continue and educate me in any way, either older aircraft or newer. I am prop driven in the jet age and tend to lag far behind in what is happening in the military world. Again, as to your thoughts and ideas about this dirt ball we live on, they are welcome and I look forward to you all sharing your thoughts. God bless you both.

PMM said on the 12-Jul-2011 at 23:51

Michael, I hear some will be kept flying, though l lmagine that the gr9 suite will have to be replaced for the USMC equivalent. Shame to see them go, but I doubt that they could get a better home under the circumstances

Michael Shaw said on the 13-Jul-2011 at 06:44

@ Draigygoch: Welcome to a fellow Welshman on the thread!

PMM said on the 20-Jul-2011 at 00:52

Anyone heard about what's to happen to the Harriers? Cottesmore's being transferred to the army for troops re-deploying from Germany.

Rev John W Turner said on the 20-Jul-2011 at 02:30

PMM----this is Rev Turner----I've not heard anything on this end----please keep me updated----God bless

Michael Shaw said on the 23-Jul-2011 at 06:29

I was at the Cotswold Air Show a couple of weeks back celebraing the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Hawker Hunter. Sundry senior Harrier mates were to be found in the VIP tent, and one of them told me that the jets are to be sold to USMC where they will be broken up and used as spares.

Draigygoch said on the 7-Sep-2011 at 21:48

A magnificent aircraft that punched well above its weight, another victim of the penny pinching anti-military government and general public, sad to see such a state of affairs for such a proud once capable nation.

pmm said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 00:33

Thanks for the kind words. As an englishman ican say- , please feel free to pour fowl scorn on our government for this idiotic act. They have said they need neither Harrier or the aircraft carriers that deployed them. They then ask th US tokeep two marine carriers to fly ops over libya. So harriers paid for by your taxes areneeded, but those paid for by mine are not needed. Feel free to lobby your congressman to stop paying for the defence of europe. Get yourselves a decent health service and make us pay for our own defence. We should both get out of afstan. Good job with the hit by the way.

pmm said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 00:34

Thanks for the kind words. As an englishman ican say- , please feel free to pour fowl scorn on our government for this idiotic act. They have said they need neither Harrier or the aircraft carriers that deployed them. They then ask th US tokeep two marine carriers to fly ops over libya. So harriers paid for by your taxes areneeded, but those paid for by mine are not needed. Feel free to lobby your congressman to stop paying for the defence of europe. Get yourselves a decent health service and make us pay for our own defence. We should both get out of afstan. Good job with the hit by the way.

Rev John W Turner said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 01:00

Unfortunetly I am as old fashioned as they come, having served in the Air Force from 1956 to 1964 working on prop driven aircraft. I have had a love affair with almost anything that can fly and in particular prop aircraft from about 1940 to about, whenever the military stopped using AD's. Certain of the jets caught my fancy as well as my wife's so we even fit them in there with others and the Harrier was one of them. Maybe, just maybe someone in your government will wise up and re-instate the Harriers before they are all sent to the bone yard. If they're going to trash them, send one to my wife and I so we can preserve it. It sure would look sharp in our front yard. God bless.

Michael Shaw said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 06:32

Dear Rev Turner and pmm. This weekend sees the first reunion dinner of No 1 (Fighter) Squadron RAF at a hotel near RAF Wittering - "the Home of the Harrier". I gather that the jets are hangared at Wittering at the moment, neither mothballed nor broken up, probably because the government is dithering about what to do with them. There was rumour doing the rounds last month that a flat-top was being sought for operations off Libya, but I guess it was just wishful thinking. No doubt I'll learn more from the boys and girls at the dinner on Saturday, which should be a real blast. The new Harrier Association is also planning a reunion at RAF Wittering itself in July, and the older members of the gang will probably get together with ex-Red Arrows at the Hunter day at ex-RAF Kemble on June 16, so the spirit lives on! If you are really looking for one for your front garden, have a look on Ebay - there was an ex-4 Squadron T4 two seater (minus enine) on sale for £90,000. I haven't checked to see if it's still there. Keep faith with the Harrier!

Rev John W Turner said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 18:58

Bubba---if I had 90,000 anything[pounds or dollars]I would make sure my family was cared for before I bought a fighter aircraft. I always thought it would be a blast to have a Douglas AD in my yard and be able to fire it up every day[that bird had a 3350 in it] and had a beautiful sound when fired over. Either way, a Harrier or an AD would not make my neighbors happen when I fired them up even though I live out in the boonedocks. Those heavy prop engines tend to shake the ground when you get on it. Told you I loved aircraft. Love my wife, my daughter, my Lord and Saviour, and my flap-winged iron birds.

pmm said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 21:06

Rev & mike
the aircraft carrier ark royal was built in my home town. I remember her being launched and her sister ship hms illustrious. The ark came back as part of her last tour and I took my son on board. The last time I stood in her hangar was in 1983. I spoke to a harrier pilot stood next to his gr9. How do you speak to someone who is prepared to die for his country on Monday and sacked by it on Tuesday. A proud warrior cast aside by pencil pushing member of parliament needing to save some bankers who should be in prison. The same morons then start a war with country who's cities are all by the sea and have to fly land based planes 2000miles to carry out an air strike that could have been done by harriers 12miles off the coast from one of our freshly withdrawn carriers.

Rev John W Turner said on the 5-Dec-2011 at 19:08

pmm It is a travesty to any country[yours or mine] for those in charge? of the government to be allowed to make a decision about our military equipment and have probably zero understanding of how to use them, where to use them, when to use them. Far to many of our leaders? have, either no experience about the military or very minimal at best. I don't know who your best leader was except for Churchill but our country needs another Reagen.God bless.

kchatto said on the 6-Dec-2011 at 17:08

Dear pmm u mean to say that Brits gave GBP 825 m for inducting Ark Royal into IN with its full complement of Harriers, this means operating cost of Ark Royal with harriers is to unnessary for Brits and too costly and in IndianNavy they will operate in much much less cost, also means lack of financial management and scaracity of techies and hands in royal navy who keep up the Ark Royal with harriers, other wise the said 825 Mn GBP is needed for war aginst terror to check islamic terror getting to british shores in strenght , which eventually will happen as the nerds of cambridge, oxford and US Ivy league colleges in shape of republicans and conservatives again feedind there mujahideen satans in name of good taliban and peace talks with them to let them share power in afghan, fen the onetime terror child of CIA and its sister agency in UK

Michael Shaw said on the 13-Jan-2012 at 22:30

I think you've got the wrong thread, chum!

Michael Shaw said on the 17-Jan-2012 at 22:43

I think we've been invaded by aliens on this thread!

Michael Shaw said on the 18-Jan-2012 at 07:30

I'm out of here

kchatto said on the 21-Jan-2012 at 04:33

The Navy ofTaliban is the Pakistan Navy and its Goverment and private shipping companies,In Mumbai attack the pak navy commandos loaned out as taliban were all through assisted and supplied and advised by pakistan navy specially its Submarine fleet, other wise its impossible for two fishing trawlers to sneek in the busiest fishing and shipping coast line and waters from Kranch to bombay harbour and not be seen by any indian trawler or coast gaurd.

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