HomeNewsLetters to 150The harrier is 40 years old

The harrier is 40 years old

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This is the last in our series on three of the most iconic aircraft in the world.  Before the unveiling of the stealth series of aircraft: the 747, Concorde and the harrier jump-jet must have been the most recognisable aircraft in the world.  This editor once failed his aircraft recognition badge when in the cubs; even I scored three points.  Britain’s slowly declining financial muscle during the post-war era made modern aircraft carriers difficult to maintain.  Without large carriers with long runways, Britain would have lost the ability to project her power oversees beyond the scope of landbases.  The harrier was the answer to that problem; its very short (or vertical) take-off run makes it possible to operate from smaller cheaper carriers.

The Harrier (a GR7 one).Helicopters are immensely valuable and adaptable objects, but they cannot match a fix-wing jet for power projection and this makes the ability to carry fixed-wing jets on ships a strategic asset.   The harrier proved itself during the Falklands conflict of the early eighties.  Forty years after its birth, the harrier is still providing ground attack support to our forces in Afghanistan.  Although people always remember the harrier hovering and bowing at air shows, it doesn’t often use its hover and VTOL capability – without the wings to generate lift, the engines must directly bear the weight and this really burns fuel.  Cpl Dodson and Cdt Witchalls give us their take on this aircraft. (Ed.)

The harrier is a STOL performance aircraft that is particularly useful when the situation demands, as a heavier weapon load can be carried than with a helicopter. With the Pegasus vectored thrust turbofan, no other lift jets are required. The harrier can carry a normal maximum external load of 2270 kg (5000 lb).  The world wanted an aircraft that had the speed and power of a deadly jet but the stealth and convenience of a helicopter.  Not needing a runway to take-off and land would be a great advantage; allowing the harrier to operate where ever and whenever. The harrier was designed, manufactured and put into service in 1975. With 90 degree rotating engines the thrust could allow the aircraft to move vertically and horizontally with no sweat at all.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 November 2009 22:04