British Aerospace Harrier


Origin: UK.

Type: Single-seat STOVL tactical attack and reconnaissance; (T.4)dual trainer or special missions.

Engine: One 21,500lb (9,752kg) thrust Rolls-Royce Pegasus 103 vectored-thrust turbofan.

Dimensions: Span 25ft 3in (7·7m), (with bolt-on tips, 29ft 8in); length (GR.3) 47ft 2in (14·38m), (T.4) 57ft 3in (17·45m); height (GR.3) 11ft 3in (3·43m); (T.4) 13ft 8in (4·17m); wing area 201·1sq ft (18·68m2).

Weights: Empty (GR.3) 12,200lb (5,533kg); (T.4) 13,600lb (6,168kg); max (non-VTOL) 26,000lb (11,793kg).

Performance: Max speed over 737mph (1,186km/h), Mach 0·972) at low level; max dive Mach number 1·3; initial climb (VTOL weight) 50,000ft (15,240m)/min; service ceiling, over 50,000ft (15,240m); tactical radius on strike mission without drop tanks (hi-lo-hi) 260 miles (418km); ferry range 2,070 miles (3,300km).

Armament: All external, with many options. Under-fuseable strakes each replaceable by pod containing one 30mm Aden or similar gun, with 150 rounds. Five or seven stores pylons, centre and two inboard each rated at 2,000lb (907kg), outers at 650lb (295kg) and tips (if used) at 220lb (100kg) for Sidewinder AAMs, first fitted during the Falklands crisis. Normal load 5,300lb (2,400kg), but 8,000lb (3,630kg) has been flown.


Development: Until May 1982 the Harrier was generally regarded (except by those familiar with it) as a quaint toy of an experimental nature. Since then it has been a battle-proven weapon which sustained intensive operations in conditions which would have kept other aircraft grounded.

       When the experimental P.1127 got daylight under its wheels in 1960 the RAF showed not the slightest interest (in any case, British combat aircraft had been officially pronounced obsolete). Gradually the RAF did show interest in a much more powerful Mach 2 aircraft, the P.1154, but in 1964 this was cancelled. The Government did, however, permit the development of a much smaller subsonic aircraft, and this became the Harrier, basically a machine of classis simplicity which pioneered the entire concept of STOVL (short takeoff, vertical landing) combat operations, and the sustained mounting of close-support and recon missions from dispersed sites in many parts of Europe.

       Though the Harrier is small it has better range and weapon load than a Hunter, and it has also rather surprisingly emerged as an air-combat adversary of extreme difficulty. Though not designed as an fighter, its combination of small size, unusual shape, lack of visible smoke and unique agility conferred by the ability to vector the engine thrust direction (to make “impossible” square turns, violent deceleration or unexpected vertical movements without change of attitude) make even the original Harrier a most unpopular opponent for any modern interceptor.


Below: US Marine Corps AV-8A Harriers fitted with refueling probes practise operational deploymwnt during an exercise.



       The RAF Harrier GR.3 has an inertial nav/attack system, laser range and marked-target seeker and fin-mounted passive warning receivers; it is planned to install internal ECM (unlike before 1985). RAF Germany has two squadrons (3 and 4) at Gutersloh, while in the UK in 1 Group are No. 1 Sqn and 233 OCU, both at wittering.


Below: In 1971 concepts of operational deployment envisaged more elaborate hides than would be used in a real war.




        All these units are vastly experienced, No 1 having played a central role in the recovery of the Falklands and many RAF Harrier pilots having fought with RN Sea Harrier units.

       Pilots of No 1 Sqn performed an outstanding feat of airmanship in ferrying their Harries not only from the UK to Ascension Island, but also – in the case of four aircraft – on wards to the flight deck of HMS Hermes in the South Atlantic, a total air-refuelled trip of over 8,000 miles (12,800km).


Above: Gutersloh-based RAF Harrier GR.3s of 4 Sqn carrying centerline multisensor pods on a reconnaissance.



British Aerospace Hawk


Origin: UK.

Type: Light interceptor, light attack, and trainer.

Engine: One Rolls Royce Turboméca Adour turbofan, (T.1) 5,200lb (2,359kg) Mk 151, (50-53 and T-45A) 5,340lb (2,422kg) Mk 851, (Mks 60 onwards) 5,700lb (2,586kg) Mk 860.

Dimensions: Span 30ft 10in (9·4m); length (over probe) 39ft 2½in (11·95m); height 13ft 5in (4·09m); wing area 179·54sq ft (16·69m2).

Weights: Empty 7,450lb (3,379kg); loaded (trainer, clean) 12,000lb (5,443kg), (attack mission) 16,260lb (7,375kg).

Performance: Max speed 630mph (1,014km/h) at low level; Mach number in shallow dive 1·1; initial climb, 6,000ft (1,830m)/min; service ceiling 50,000ft (15,240m); range on internal fuel 750 miles (1,270km); endurance with external fuel 3hr.

Armament: Three or five hardpoints (two outboard optional) each rated at 1,000lb (454kg) (export Hawk 6,800lb/3,085kg weapon load); centerline point normally equipped with 30mm gun pod and ammunition; intercept role, two AIM-9L Sidewinder.


Developments: Though this is the only new All-British military aircraft for 15 years, the Hawk serves as a model of the speed and success that can be achieved when an experienced team is allowed to get on with the job. The RAF ordered 175, all of which were delivered by 1982, equipping No 4 FTS at Valley in the advanced pilot training role (replacing the Gnat and Hunter) and also with No 1 TWU (Tac Weapons Unit) at Bradway, and No 2 TWU at Chivenor, in the weapon training role. RAF Hawks normally do not have the outer pylons fitted but these could be added in hours.

       By late 1982 RAF Hawks had flown 170,000 hours, with the lowest accident record for any known military jet in history. It cut defect rates by 70 per cent whilst halving maintenance man-hours per flight hour. Despite the aircraft’s greater size and power, fuel burn has been dramatically reduced compared with the Gnat. Hawks also equip the Red Arrows aerobatic display team, again establishing an unprecedented record for trouble-free operation.

       In the weapon-training role aircraft are routinely turned around between sorties in 15 minutes by teams of four armourers.

       In 1981 it was announced that, to back up RAF Strike Command’s very limited fighter defence forces, about 90 Hawks would be equipped to fire AIM-9L Sidewinders in the light interception role. Under current planning about 72 are actually armed with the missiles.

       In addition the Hawk was selected in 1981 as the future undergraduate pilot trainer of the US Navy, as the T-45A with full carrier equipment and major airframe changes including a nose gear with two wheels strengthened for nose-two catapulting, two side airbrakes in-stead of one belly speed brake, and various items in carbon-fibre composites. Up to 300 are being supplied from 1987, but the plan by the RAF to lend 12 Hawk T.1s for five years from 1984 without charge was not taken up by the US Navy.


Above: Hawk T1A modified to carry Sidewinder AAMs as well as the 30mm centerline gun pod for airfield defence duties.


       Most of the export customers other than the US Navy use their Hawks in at least a weapon training role, and some task them combat missions. Bae is marketing a Series 100 dedicated attack version of the Hawk with digital avionics, internal navigation, optional laser ranging, HUDs in both cockpits and various features based on the F-16A. The Series 200 will be a single seat version with even greater combat capabilities; a full-scale mock-up of this formidable aircraft was unveiled at the Farnborough airshow in September 1984.



British Aerospace Lightning


Origin: UK.

Type: All-weather interceptor.

Engines: Two 15,680lb (7,112kg) thrust Rolls-Royce Avon 302 after burning turbojets.

Dimensions: Span 34ft 10in (10·6m); length 53ft 3in (16·25m); height 19ft 7in (5·95m); wing area 380·1sq ft (35·31m2).

Weights: Empty about 28,000lb (12,700kg); loaded 50,000lb (22 680kg).

Performance: Max speed 1,500mph (2,415km/h) at 40,000ft (12,000m); initial climb 50,000ft (15,240m)/min; service ceiling over 60,000ft (18,290m); range without overwing tanks 800 miles (1,290km).

Armament: Interchangeable packs for two all-altitude Red Top or stern-chase Firestreak guided missiles; option of two 30mm Aden cannon in forward part of belly tank; export versions up to 6,000lb (2,722kg) bombs or other offensive stores above and below wings.


Development: Britain’s only nationally developed supersonic military aircraft, 338 Lightnings were built, and despite extreme disinterest by the RAF and political dislike by the Government (because it was a manned aircraft), they were eventually allowed to grow in power, fuel capacity and weapon capability. In the RAF, however, it has always been a pure local-defence interceptor, and even the definitive F.6 variant has no air/ground capability. Indeed, even the overwing ferry tanks are no longer fitted, restricting the aircraft to 1,200gal (5,455 litres), which would be consumed in six minutes in full afterburner.

       Primary armament of Red Tops remains fairly effective, and can be used from any firing angle including head-on. The two cannon in the front half of the belly tank are a good installation, causing no visible flash at night, and pilots have always undergone an intensive air/air gunnery course at an annual Armament Practice Camp at Akrotiri, Cyprus.

       No longer in service with RAF Germany, the Lightning remains an operational interceptor with Nos 5 and 11 Sqns, No 11 Group, Strike Command (No 11 Group was merged into No 1 Group in 1984).

       The last F.3 single-seaters are now stored, together with about 40 Lightnings of various marks which in 1979-82 had been expected to form an additional air-defence squadron. The F.6 and a few T.5 two-seaters will now remain as local defence interceptors until replaced by the Tornado F.2 by 1986.

       As this website went to press the MoD and RAF had not taken a decision on whether to convert surplus Lightnings as RPVs and targets on buy Sperry QF-100 Super Sabress from the USA.


Below: An elderly but smart Lightning T.5 of the RAF’s Lightning Training Flight (note initials on the tailfin), with Red Top training missiles and flight refualling probe.



British Aerospace Sea Harrier


Origin: UK.

Type: Multirole STOVL naval combat aircraft.

Engine: One 21,500lb (9,752kg) thrust Rolls-Royce Pegasus 104 vectored-thrust turbofan.

Dimensions: Span 25ft 3in (7·7m); length 47ft 7in (14·5in); height 12ft 2in (3·71m); wing area 201·1sq ft (18·68m2).

Weights: 12,960lb (5,878kg); max (non-VTOL) probably 26,200lb (11,880kg).

Performance: Max speed over 737mph (1,186km/h); typical lo attack speed 690mph (1,110km/h); hi intercept radius (3min combat plus reverses and vertical landing) 460 miles (750km); lo strike radius 288 miles (463km).

Armament: Normally fitted with two 30mm Aden Mk 4 each with 150 rounds; five hardpoints for max weapon load of 8,000lb (3,630kg) including Sea Eagle or Harpoon ASMs, four Sidewinder AAMs and wide range of other stores.


Development: This STOVL (short takeoff, vertical landing) aircraft was most successfully developed from the Harrier chiefly by redesigning the forward fuselage. The deeper structure provides for a versatile and compact Ferranti Blue Fox radar, which folds 180° for shipboard stowage, and a new cockpit with the seat raised to provide space for a much enhanced nav/attack/combat system, and to give an all-round view.

       The Royal Navy purchased 24, plus a further 10, FRS.1s, the designation meaning “fighter, recon, strike” (strike normally means nuclear, but the Fleet Air Arm has not confirmed this capability). In the NATO context the main task is air defence at all heights, normally with direction from surface vessels, either as DLI (deck-launched intercept) or CAP (combat air patrol).

       In the Falklands fighting, in which almost all the RN Sea Harries (28 out of 32) took part, these aircraft repeatedly demonstrated their ability to fly six sorties a day in extremely severe weather, with maintenance by torchlight at night often in hail blizzards. Serviceability was consistently around 95 per cent each morning. CAPs were flown at 10,000ft (3km) at 290mph (463kmH), and within a few seconds it was possible to be closing on an enemy at 690mph just above the sea; 24 Argentine aircraft were claimed by AIM-9L Sidewinders and seven by guns. In air-ground missions main stores were 1,000lb (454kg) bombs, Paveway “smart” bombs and BL.755 clusters. Many new techniques were demonstrated including 4,000-mile (6,440km) flights to land on ships (sometimes by pilots who had never landed on a ship) and operations from quickly added sheet laid on the top row of containers in a merchant ship.

       From the harsh self-sufficient campaign it is a major step to the more sophisticated European environment of greater density and diversity of forces, and especially of emitters (though Sea Harries did use jammer pods in the South Atlantic). The E-2C and other aircraft would normally be available for direction, and the Sea Harrier is envisaged as filling the fleet defensive band between ship to air missiles and long-range F-14s with Phoenix AAMs. Its ESM fit is more advanced than that of Harries and is used as a primary aid to intercept emiting aircraft (or, it is expected, sea-skimming missiles). Pilots normally operated as individuals, flying any mission for which they are qualified.


Above: A Sea FRS.1 Leaves the 7° ski-jump of HMS Invincible with two tanks and three practice bomb carriers.


       By the middle of 1984 23 additional aircraft were ordered to replace losses from all causes (6) and increase establishment of the three combat squadrons (800, 801 and 809, normally embarked aboard Invincible, Illustrious and Hermes (later Ark Royal) and the training unit 899 Sqn at Yeovilton.

       Under a mid-life improvement programme, due to be implemented later in the decade, the Royal Navy FRS.1 aircraft are to be updated to have lookdown-shootdown capability with a new radar of pulse-doppler type, named Blue Vixen. This will considerably upgrade all-round capability, and in particular will match the range of the new Sea Eagle anti-ship missile. It is expected that Zeus active ECM will be installed, together with pairs of AIM-120A (Amraam) AAMs, and the cockpit will be updated. British Aerospace have published an artist’s impression showing Lerx (leading-edge root extensions) and wingtip rails for Sidewinder or Asraam close-range AAMs, but the future of these is uncertain.

       In 1984 the only export customer was the Indian Navy. This service purchased six FRS.51 and two T.60 two-seat trainers, followed by a repeat order for ten MK 51s and two trainers. They operate with No. 300 Sqn from shore bases and from INS Vikrant.


Below: A Sea Harrier T.4N trainer (top and a 899 Sqn FRS.1 which destroyed three enemy aircraft in the Falklands.


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