The aircraft that defined an era of front-line Fleet Air Arm operations — not least in the Falklands
To ensure a rapid build up of experience of operating each major new aircraft type, the Royal Navy has traditionally formed an Intensive Flying Trials Unit (IFTU), designated 700 Naval Air Squadron with a letter suffix. In the case of the Sea Harrier, this was 700A NAS, which commissioned at Yeovilton on 26 June 1979 under the command of Lt Cdr Nigel ‘Sharkey’ Ward. Its first aircraft, XZ451, was delivered from Dunsfold two days earlier. The significance of the ‘A’ suffix to the squadron number is oft debated; the navy may already have been through the alphabet from A to Z, or it could be an example of naval humour —L for Lynx, P for Phantom and A for ’arrier.