The Harrier story is one of the most remarkable in post-war British aviation history, reflecting technological advance, innovation and both political and service indecision. Dr Kevin Wright looks back at five decades of development and operation of the UK’s Harriers and Sea Harriers.
From the very first tethered flight to the mountains of Afghanistan via Cold War West Germany, Belize and the Falklands, the British Harrier story spans more than 50 years from creation and operational use through to premature retirement.
The engineering challenges to create the world’s first vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) fighter aircraft to enter operational service were formidable. They included the design and construction of sufficiently powerful engines to lift and propel the fighter, how to transition from vertical to wing-supported flight and back again and the development of complex flight controls among a host of issues.