British Aerospace Harrier GR9A

The Harrier II resulted from a collaborative partnership between McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace to produce a second-generation Harrier based on the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B.

The project that eventually led to the AV-8B’s creation started in the early 1970s as a cooperative effort between the United States and United Kingdom, aimed at addressing the operational inadequacies of the first-generation Hawker Siddeley Harrier. 

Because of budgetary constraints, the UK abandoned the project in 1975. Following the UK’s withdrawal, McDonnell Douglas extensively redesigned the earlier AV-8A Harrier to create the AV-8B. While retaining the general layout of its predecessor, the aircraft incorporates a new, larger composite wing with an additional hardpoint on each side, an elevated cockpit, a redesigned fuselage and other structural and aerodynamic refinements. The aircraft is powered by an upgraded version of the Pegasus.

The UK, through British Aerospace, re-joined the improved Harrier project as a partner in 1981, giving it a significant work-share in the project. 

The Harrier II was derived from the AV-8B and incorporated an advanced wing design, improved avionics and increased bomb and missile-carrying capacity.

RAF variants started as the Harrier GR5, and were later upgraded as the GR7 and GR9. 

This Harrier GR9A was on display at RAF London.

Under the Joint Force Harrier organisation, both the RAF and RN operated the Harrier II under the RAF’s Air Command, including deployments on board the navy’s Invincible-class aircraft carriers. 

The Harrier II participated in numerous conflicts, making significant contributions in combat theatres such as Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The type’s main function was as a platform for air interdiction and close air support missions; the Harrier II was also used for power projection and reconnaissance duties. The Harrier II served alongside the Sea Harrier in Joint Force Harrier.

The RAF used them for attack and close air support duties in conflicts such as Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

There is also a BAe Harrier GR9A on display at RAF Cosford.

There is a BAe Harrier GR9A at the Imperial War Museum in London.

BAe Harrier GR9A – RAF Cosford

This BAe Harrier GR9A was on display at RAF Cosford.

The Harrier, informally referred to as the Jump Jet, is the famous family of British-designed military jet aircraft capable of vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) operations. The Harrier family is the only truly successful design of this type from the many that arose in the 1960s.

There are four main versions of the Harrier family: Hawker Siddeley Harrier, British Aerospace Sea Harrier, Boeing/BAE Systems AV-8B Harrier II, and BAE Systems/Boeing Harrier II. The Hawker Siddeley Harrier is the first generation-version and is also known as the AV-8A Harrier. The Sea Harrier is a naval strike/air defence fighter. The AV-8B and BAE Harrier II are the US and British variants respectively of the second generation Harrier aircraft. Between 1969 and 2003, 824 Harrier variants were delivered, including remanufactured aircraft.

Historically the Harrier was developed to operate from ad-hoc facilities such as car parks or forest clearings, avoiding the need for large air bases vulnerable to tactical nuclear weapons. Later the design was adapted for use from aircraft carriers.

Following an approach by the Bristol Engine Company in 1957 that they were planning a directed thrust engine, Hawker Aircraft came up with a design for an aeroplane that could meet the NATO specification for a “Light Tactical Support Fighter”. The resultant Hawker P.1127 was ordered as a prototype and flew in 1960.

Development continued with nine evaluation aircraft, the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel; These started flying in 1964 and were assessed by the “Tri-partite Evaluation Squadron” which consisted of British, US and German pilots, and several flew and are preserved in the United States. The RAF ordered a modified P.1127/Kestrel as the Harrier GR.1 in 1966, with most converted to GR.1A and ultimately GR.3 status in the 1970s with more powerful engines. These and new-build GR3s operated with the RAF until 1994, and a number survive in museums around the world as well as frequent use as ‘gate guards’ at MoD establishments.

The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval V/STOL jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft, a development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. The first version entered service with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS.1, and was informally known as the ‘Shar’. The upgraded Sea Harrier FA2 entered service in 1993. It was withdrawn from Royal Navy service in March 2006. The Sea Harrier FRS Mk.51 remains in active service with the Indian Navy.

The Harrier was extensively redeveloped by McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace (now parts of Boeing and BAE Systems respectively), leading to the Boeing/BAE Systems AV-8B Harrier II. This is a family of second-generation V/STOL jet multi-role aircraft, including the British Aerospace-built Harrier GR5/GR7/GR9, which entered service in the mid-1980s. The AV-8B is primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, typically operated from small aircraft carriers. Versions are used by several NATO countries, including the Spanish and Italian Navies, and the United States.

The BAE Systems/Boeing Harrier II is a modified version of the AV-8B Harrier II that was used by the RAF and the Royal Navy until December 2010, when they were all retired from operational service due to defence cuts in favour of maintaining the remaining Tornado fleet, and stored serviceable at RAF Cottesmore. At the end of November 2011, the UK Government announced the sale of 72 remaining Harrier Airframes to the US Marine Corps for spares to support their AV-8B fleet, with the remaining two others being allocated to museums, including the airframe now at Cosford.

There is a BAe Harrier GR9A at the Imperial War Museum in London.

BAe Harrier GR9

BAe Harrier GR9

This BAe Harrier GR9 was hanging from the ceiling of the Imperial War Museum in London.

BAe Harrier GR9

The British Aerospace Harrier II is a second-generation vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) jet aircraft used previously by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and, between 2006 and 2010, the Royal Navy (RN). The aircraft was the latest development of the Harrier Jump Jet family, and was derived from the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II. Initial deliveries of the Harrier II were designated in service as Harrier GR5; subsequently upgraded airframes were redesignated accordingly as GR7 and GR9.

The GR9 was developed via the Joint Update and Maintenance Programme (JUMP), which significantly upgraded the Harrier fleet’s avionics, communications systems, and weapons capabilities during scheduled periods of maintenance in an incremental manner.

The aircraft on display was delivered as a GR5 in 1992 and was subsequently upgraded to a GR7 and then a GR9. It saw service in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. It was damaged in 2010 in the USA, before being declared as scrap. In 2012 it was offered for sale to the IWM.