Goodbye to the Harrier

The iconic is over used but I think I am on safe ground to label the Harrier as such.

From the MoD

The formation of 16 Harriers took to the skies over Lincolnshire from their base at RAF Cottesmore. Brought into service in 1969 and based at RAF Wittering, this British aircraft was designed to take off and land both vertically and on a short runway.

Well known for its role in the Falklands War, the Harrier went on to serve in many other conflicts including in Bosnia and Iraq in the 1990s.

The RAF and Royal Navy Harrier squadrons joined forces in 2000 to form Joint Force Harrier, based at RAF Cottesmore. These combined Harrier squadrons went on to serve in Sierra Leone, the second Gulf War and most recently Afghanistan.

Read more here, here, here, here and here

On this pretty sad day, what else is happening in the world this week?

The UK announced that it is getting 200,000 children back to school in Pakistan, providing £888 million for the International Development Aid fund and being seriously miffed at the massive and widespread theft of education development money in Kenya.

Nice to know that those African Mercedes dealers are doing so well at our expense, remember, we can’t afford to keep the Harrier in service

A few selected videos of the Harrier

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Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
December 17, 2010 1:07 am


Never say never!

There must be an ongoing business for a light fighter / bomber with the Harrier’s special range of talents?

With all the problems surrounding the F35B and all the people with cut price carriers looking out for fixed wing surely BAE could get a bit entrepreneurial for once and start looking at a quick fix update?

Modern tech should be able to increase the engine thrust by 50% over the late 60’s and a new derived airframe / incremental improvements would surely generate divideds without aiming for a Nobel prize level of new tech.

A bit of development and promotion would go a long way in this.

Finally as I have mentioned before I think that they could still have apart to play in the 2015 election, along with the Ark and / or Lusty.

December 17, 2010 8:01 am

Theres quite a few of who have questioned F35B compared to a Harrier III
The F35 would obviously better, but the H3 would be rather a lot cheaper.

Modern Frame, Modern Engine, Modern Radar.
Doesnt matter if its subsonic, it doesnt have to be for fleet defence at the extreme range of the enemy airforce, for ground attack, storm shadow ubntil the enemy runs out of airdefences, Brimstone/Paveway from then on.

Never happen though, far too sensible.

December 17, 2010 9:00 am

Carefull there TD, I and many thers in the forces would rather see children given the chance of an education than the MoD getting it and it dissappearing into the void known as the MoD… the money does some very good things so I’d take your and others spite on the overseas development fund with salt.
In the end we’re in a black hole…many people are to blame, from those who voted in the plebs in charge to decisions made years back… we must make measures now to avoid our armed services turning into the Netherlands… seriously people, it could be far worse.

It is indeed a very sad time, my first stint was in harriers before being shifted elsewhere, got freinds who’s jobs are now in doubt. My main concerns are with the lads and familes involved with it, especially the Navy people… the RAF people can be redirected, but what of the Navy? The USMC is very unlikely to give the UK any favours after pulling the rug on the B JSF, they have no-where to go other than back to the classroom for rotary, there is simply no room in the RAF for them.

Even if most of the harrier airframes were close to being nackared, what we are witnessing is another ‘brain drain’, in the military sphere anyway…with the loss of Nimrod and Harrier we’re loosing skills thats gonna be very hard and very expensive to gain again.
Its as stupid as cutting education funds for the next generation… ‘shooting oneself in ones foot’ indeed… but perhaps to avoid worse?

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
December 17, 2010 10:31 am

@FBOT – 01:07am (different time zone, eh?)

“Modern tech should be able to increase the engine thrust by 50% over the late 60′s and a new derived airframe / incremental improvements would surely generate divideds without aiming for a Nobel prize level of new tech.”

The GR7/9 Harriers are as to the GR1’s as a Type 45 is to a Type 82. The Engines, avionics and airframe are all late ’70’s / Early ’80’s Technology (i.e. after Tornado but before Typhoon).

If BAE had a gram of entrepreneurial spirit it’d dust off the designs for the HS. 1216 (as shown on my avatar). Updated, this would make an excellent Ground Attack/Tactical fighter – and probably deliver 90% of what F35B would.

But then they’d be admitting that developing military aircraft can be done as a private project, and not only as a result of massive govt. cash injections. Not to mention causing a conflict of interests with the F35 work being carried out by their American subsidiary! (me, bitter?)

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
December 17, 2010 11:12 am

DD @ 10.31

Fair point on the Harrier being a rare piece of UK kit, one that has matured with age due to a decent development effort.

My starting point was the Pegasus engine, very 1960’s and ripe for a step change not another piece of incremental development.

I would be interested to see how it could be pushed up to 30K lbs of thrust:

Extra stage
Wider diameter
Better blade design

Civil and military stuff has come on leaps and bounds in the last 45-50 years so that I think the 25% growth in a Pegasus is sub optimal when compared to other engine types.

If the engine is freshened up but keeps its layout, then an improved fuselage would not be a big issue. There is a lot of stuff in the parts bin to work from and reduce the amount of brand new needed.

Add in a new wing and some design for maintenace stuff to help servicing and I think it would still be very useful.

2 degrees of sand blasting and supercruise could be on the agenda.

Given the size of the F35 there would seem to be a gap in the market for something lighter.
The big question, would BAE be interested or are they loved up with the Gripen?

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
December 17, 2010 11:47 am

@FBOT -11:12am

The BS100 was able to output 32000lbs thrust with PCB in 1960 (28000lbs dry). iirc that one was destined for the HS.1154 supersonic stovl aircraft. The engine was cancelled when RR took over, as the HS.1154 had also famously foundered by that stage.

Interestingly, the BS100 only had a bypass ratio of 0.9:1, whereas the latest pegasii has bpr’s of 1.2:1, so updating the BS100 may provide a design with better headroom than Pegasus?

The problem with increasing engine thrust and only doing a “bit of sandblasting” on the airframe is that it does nothing for top speed – as demonstrated by the Supermarine Scimitar (terrifyingly powerful, but no area rule therefore subsonic. Immense acceleration and able to keep dV up in tight corners though).

As a result a new airframe design would be needed, especially if you want supercruise . . .

December 17, 2010 12:42 pm

The JSF F-35B would have been an ideal replacement for the Harrier – if it actually worked. But, as I am sure we all know, the F-35B has a number of serious flaws that may require a fundamental redesign if it isn’t scrapped. In case you don’t know, here is the list so far:

1. The GE Rolls-Royce FF136 engine’s main rotating jet nozzle at the back is a highly complex variable geometry mechanical structure and a potentially unreliable system of vectoring thrust versus the Pegasus engine’s more simple fixed rotating nozzles. Perfecting this as well as the separate forward lift fan is proving more difficult – and expensive than anticipated.

2. When engine thrust is directed downwards it can incinerate tarmac and or steel deck structures. When concentrated jet thrust is deflected by the ground, it can pose a heat hazard to anyone nearby, which is likely to an issue on crowded UK carrier decks. One fix would be to cut engine power earlier so that the aircraft drops the last 10-15 feet to the ground, necessitating a stronger undercarriage. This is hardly ideal.

3. The F-35B carries less fuel, less ordnance, is slower, heavier, less agile and is much more expensive than the A and C versions. it is much more complex to maintain and service with many more components to go wrong.

For these reasons, a new version of the Harrier would make perfect sense. The mechanical concept of the Harrier is proven. Moreover, two separate thrust nozzles would reduce the heat signature of the less than stealthy F-35B huge rear end. You could easily incorporate stealth technology into a redesigned harrier airframe.

Don’t give up on the Harrier yet.

December 17, 2010 12:45 pm

We should remember that what helped to kill of the British aircraft industry (beyond the Sandy’s Whitepaper) was our politicians. The Americans did us over twice whether it was Starfighter scuppering Saunders Roe or F111 scuppering the TSR2. And I think I am right in saying that didn’t somebody do a cost/benefit analysis on Tornado and came up with figures that suggested that a domestic product would have been better. (Check the figures for Buccaneer against Tornado.) It wasn’t engineering prowess.

paul g
December 17, 2010 1:09 pm

@ mike 0900,
I think the main thrust of TD’s point there was yes we all get a nice fuzzy warm feeling when the needy get help, however that isn’t getting there, (seen first hand in africa)and also we’re talking about a country (pakistan) that spends billions on nuclear power (military not electricity for all) and has it’s own space programme!
I can only assume this is TD’s point (comes across as a nice person despite having a fixation for containers) as there is no mention of funds to the african nations, except his frustration when they’ve been nicked by dictators, a sad but frequent truth.

December 17, 2010 1:10 pm

I think top speeds over rated, especialy on a carrier aircraft.
It just eats to much range/endurance.

Its nice to think the F35B could hammer along at Mach 2 and 100ft to render SAMs useless, but could it really?
With fuel to reach its target and come back? At Mach 2 again?
In a mock up, yeah, in the real world, no way.

Not saying its perfect, but its passable.

I admit to being genuinely confused by TSR2, or people love of it anyway.
Its basicaly a big Tornado. Which people generaly hate…

Michael (ex-DIS)
Michael (ex-DIS)
December 17, 2010 1:11 pm

I am afraid that once the RAF gets the bit between their collective teeth, there is no stopping them. So the Buccaneer was scrapped because the pilots union wanted the Tornado. In the same way, the upgrade of the Vulcan as an anti-shipping aircraft that would dominate the North Atlantic was scrapped. It’s all about toys for the pilots union.

El Sid
El Sid
December 17, 2010 1:43 pm

Didn’t one of the western defence companies (Lockheed??) get involved in the Yak-141 programme at one stage? Always thought that was one of the great “might have beens” of the Cold War, if the Kievs had had supersonic VTOL planes with a half-decent payload.

December 17, 2010 2:38 pm

Hi all,

Very sad day, I felt genuinely upset when I saw footage of the last day of the Harrier.

I posted an image of one of the design studies of the AV-16 a while ago – I must dig out a link to it if I can find it. That would have been a genuine Harrier III. There was also an image of a twin tailed, twin canard three poster somewhere too, but that would be a radically new aircraft.

Shame someone with a bit of entrepeneurial spiritl couldn’t reanimate Hawker Siddley or something and actually build the thing with private money….

December 17, 2010 2:42 pm

This isnt the image I was referring to, too radical a departure, but not too radical:

December 17, 2010 3:07 pm

OK, I agree, retiring them is wrong, should have been handed over to RN to keep the knowledge expertise going etc etc, but now let me play devils advocate………..

Harrier was a flawed concept from the very beginning. GR1’s were designed to operate from austere forward bases against the Warsaw pact hordes. Whilst I am sure dispersing them away from air bases would have been a damn fine idea during the supposed “pre-war period of tension” does anyone honestly think that Warsaw pact tactical recon was going to be so frakkin’ useless that they would never find the FOB’s ? With hordes of Mig 27’s and Su17’s, huge amounts of tactical ballistic missiles (including chemical warheads), not to mention masses of artillery, put your hands up if you think the GR1 / GR3 force would have lasted more than a week ???

Then of course came the Sea Harrier – the savior of carrier aviation. Now this seemed more sensible, allowing the UK, Italy and Spain to develop small, cheap(er) “jeep carriers”. All good stuff. Not so whizzy, but did the job in a real shooting war (as did the GR3 of course). The the FA2 with a “real” radar and good AAM’s – BUT – then we had the divorce; We caved in to our industrial “allies” and McDonnell Douglas became prime on the Harrier II. Derided as a simple bomb truck for the USMC, when it too grew a radar it at least had a bigger wings with more gas and more weapons pylons (thus more missiles) than the FA2.

But for navy’s it does what it does, provides a STOVL jet, that can lift air-to-air, air-to-surface or anti-ship missiles.

So for airforces, it might have always been a flawed, cold war based operating concept. For navies, it may have been more valuable, but never having the performance of a “non-stovl” type from a big deck.

Of course now the whole concept has been caught up in the hype of the US aerospace industry. The USAF needs to replace the F16, the USN needs to replace the A6 Intruder, and the USMC eventually will need to replace the Harrier II – “wow what savings we could make if we could do it all in one standard aircraft….”. Supersonic stealth STOVL (keep saying it fast after a few beers) – great from a purely technical engineering perspective – jolly interesting work if you can get; but someone seems to have screwed up the cost benefit analysis somewhere…….

Ref: “The JSF F-35B would have been an ideal replacement for the Harrier – if it actually worked.” -> Would it, really ? A highly compromised design, based around USN requirements for “first day of the war” front aspect stealth strike fighter to replace the A12 it never got ? I am not so sure……

So is there really a market for a cheaper, UK designed and built Harrier III ? Surely the only market is naval, could you convince Spain and Italy to drop the F35B ? (Mind you, if it gets cancelled, thats a different environment !) Could we interest Brazil or India ? Could you build it so that it would be cheaper than Sea Gripen or Indian LCS ???

December 17, 2010 3:19 pm

TSR2 is used as a textbook example of how not to project manage.
Instead of the Harrier, the RAF would have been happier with a Hunter II (a pretty A-7) as would the balance of payments. With the increased budget thus available the RN could have kept its CATOBAR carriers and Gannet AEWs.

December 17, 2010 4:07 pm

DomJ said “I admit to being genuinely confused by TSR2, or people love of it anyway.
Its basicaly a big Tornado. Which people generaly hate…”

I know where you are coming from with this and in a way I agree. As with most subjects here it is a grey issue.

If you check the spec’ sheet of both (and I will admit to just double checking on Wiki as my copy of Jane’s is the other side of the office) you will see that basically you are right. The Tornado has twice the bomb load. But TSR2 was entirely British and would have been available 10 years earlier. And the British aircraft industry (and allied industries) would have benefited. Do you think the French would have gone a similar route? No. You can still buy a French built combat aircraft. You can excuse the Germans for not wanting to build their own full scale fighters.

Now I am going to come all over Lewis Page now. But I think the RAF liked the Tornado. They got a bomber that carried as much as Lancaster and all is well with the world. Not a fighter to guarantee air superiority above the BAOR. Or indeed more conventional decent (not saying that the Jaguar or Harrier were bad I am saying more were needed) CAS aircraft to hold of the hordes of Third Shock Army.

While on the subject somebody here compare F35 to the latest Russian fighters. The commenter said that the former was no match for the latter which is true. But I was reminded that not long after the East collapsed the RAF sent some Tornado ADV on exercise to I think a range on/above Sardinia against the German airforce’s newly aquired MIGS. In engagement after engagement the Germans were shot out of the air because of the ADV’s BVR missiles. In the end the RAF decided to have a go without their BVRs and got their bottoms kicked (because of their aeroplane.) I would suggest that as long as our missiles our better than missiles aircraft performance is a bit moot and so on into the future.

I am right in thinking that the German navy was the biggest operator user of Tornado?

Kentish Paul
Kentish Paul
December 17, 2010 4:33 pm

Where to begin.

Lets not forget that the original Harrier was a modified experimental aircraft developed by Hawkers and Bristol engines. The Hawker P1127 was designed to test the Bristol Pegasus engine (with 4 rotating nozzles) with a view to seeing if VTOL/STOVL was possible. Events proved it was. However VTOL was a red herring as the Harrier force was based at conventional airfields apart from exercises showing the force leaping from forest tracks or forest clearings. The logistics to do this on a semi permanent basis was a non starter, also VTOL was impossible if you wanted to carry any sort of weopon/fuel load. As Brian above says, what was needed was a Hunter 2, better airframe, more poke and more store carriage. It would have been a better CAS platform.

As regards Sea Harrier, the FRS1 was the best that could be hoped for to keep the FAA in the fast jet business considering what carriers were offered to the RN. Lets not forget that the MK2 Sea Harrier was considered as having maybe the best radar (Blue Vixen) and missile (AMRAAM) combination of its time. I believe the FAA offered to stand UK air defence QRA when not at sea. The offer was “declined”.

I unterstand that on their final sortie from Yeovilton the Sea Harriers took on some F15E’s from 48th FW at Lakenheath over Wales. The result was something to nil in favour of the Sea Harriers.

I agree with FBOT @11:12, a Harrier 3 should be easily possible. Modern airframe, no stealth requirement, subsonic, new Pegasus (at least 35,000 lbs thrust with , extra stages, bigger fan and newer materials), loads of stores and a radar if needed (As done by USMC with their AV8B’s).

Back to reality I suppose.

December 17, 2010 4:47 pm

Hi Jed @ 4:07,

RE “I would suggest that as long as our missiles our better than missiles aircraft performance is a bit moot”
– that is exactly the point
– F22 still went for the aircraft (at the -then – huge cost)
– F35 has a unique sensor package on all sides of the aeroplane so manoeuvreability is secondary (with well-ranged missiles, working with the well ranged sensors)
– the problem is that the internal weapons bay is so small that in order to be able to defend itself on strike missions, the (expensive!) stealth goes with the extras carried on the outside.

I have been very critical in many posts about the plane & delays, but that has been in the much hyped navy/ marines context (this part seems to be dissolving over the ever further-shifting horizon)

December 17, 2010 5:09 pm

ACC – re Jed at @4.07 – nope not me, that was X !

December 17, 2010 5:12 pm

Don’t believe it! It was Jed pretending to be me.

December 17, 2010 6:03 pm

Re Harrier 3

It is perfectly possible but not with bigger fan.

The fan along with the wingsize is the factor that limits the speed of the aircraft. (Its why modern passanger jets are slower than the first generation turbojet powered craft).

However Harrier 3 would be a very ggod idea and could sell very well also.


Soviet missiles got a lot better in the 90’s and noughties. As recent excercises have shown.

The Indian Vs US excercises in (I think) 2008, have been described to me as the biggest shock to the USAF since vietnahm. (Apparantly large scale excercises in which su33 did not just win it, handed US their butts).

December 17, 2010 6:07 pm

Bonkers. We build aircraft carriers, and we scrap the one aircraft that can fly from the carriers … barking.

December 17, 2010 6:32 pm

nar, RoE was unsupported f15’s with vr missiles against a full gbad with awacs support.

As for VSTOL.
As someone said, only any good expeditionarily and off flat tops, Raf can use phoon, faa can use h3. in sensible land

Kentish Paul
Kentish Paul
December 17, 2010 6:33 pm

Not so Ixion.

Fastest civvie (bar concorde) is B747 (cruise at) at Mach o.85 (Max 0.92). Wingspan 211ft 5ins (64.4m). A bit bigger than a Harrier and evey thing else bar A380. A larger fan would just make Harrier 3 a bit bigger.

December 17, 2010 6:49 pm

Another very stupid decision in a long line of stupid decision.
Harrier 3 great idea we could market it as the real A-10 replacement the yanks wanted but alas it will never happen we have all but lost the ability to develop whole aircraft in this country.
Only in museums can we see the last all British aircraft. The whole harrier force showed off the aircraft at its finest right up to its all too premature end.

December 17, 2010 7:15 pm

One wonders what would have happened if FAA had let the RAF have all the fast air?

Kentish Paul
Kentish Paul
December 17, 2010 7:17 pm

A-10 replacement! Well done Mark you’ve mentioned the reality of what we are really talking about. Something that can go in, low cost, big armour, stacks of kit, and kill the enemy.

Basically, low tech airframe, average avionics, bags of firepower.

Maybe a few Mill a pot, or not !!!

December 17, 2010 7:26 pm

Sorry disagree about fans

High byppass Turbofans cannot be pushed through the air as fast as low (or no bypass turbojets). The fan in effect increases the air resistance. Compare 747 with 777, 4 smaller diametre although still turbo fans) v 2 really big engines. A big fan will increase the range, improve the fuel economy at cruise speed, and the lifting caability, but without big redeign of air intakes it won’t be any faster.


India reported it was the Optical pod on the su33 and silent running tactics, that made the difference. As I have remarked before the Ausie think the Su33 is better than the F35.

I have heard the USAF were engaged in damage limitation ‘Leaking’ various excuses.
One was about rules of engagement,
One was that in order to make congress buy more F22 they deliberatly ‘threw’ the excercise….

So the truth may be difficult to get to.

Harrier 3 still breat idea and a lot could be doen to the engin and airframe which after all is at best 1980’s design to improve the arcraft.

Kentish Paul
Kentish Paul
December 17, 2010 7:53 pm

Ixion @ 7:26.

The fan on a Pegasus is much larger than a normal military tubofan as it provides most of the thrust to the front nozzles. Do not forget that the Pegasus is an Orpheus (as in Gnat) turbojet with a fan fitted at the front.

Having travelled on both I don’t think the difference in cruising speed between B747 and B777 is a lot. However I must admit that the idea of an engine intake metres across with a large fan behind does not indicate maximim efficiency.

December 17, 2010 8:25 pm

When you get to the very large fan diameters they are restricted in speed because the blade tips will start to go supersonic which is not really wanted. A main consideration why you wouldnt really do it on a harrier type aircraft is FOD damage the bigger the inlet the more it sucks in not advisable for austere operating bases. You can update the engine core to gain extra power certainly you just half to balance that against fatigue issues on the airframe and design accordingly.

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
December 17, 2010 9:26 pm

I think yesterday was a really bad day for the forces overall.

I really feel for all of the people involved & their families.

I pray to the god that i’m not sure even exists that we have no cause to ever bitterly regret this very dangerous decision.

Those damm idiots in Parliment had better hope nothing at all happens for at least the next 12 years.

Re: Harrier III

I think my first rambling, slightly drunken, slightly angry post on TD was about the CVF & what aircraft it should take. It may also have included a kind of, i do admit it, rant about a Harrier III.

I’ve never really thanked TD for not banning my arse on the spot, he is a very patient bloke, especialy it seems, with slow people like myself. (i come from Birmingham, i know i’m slow on the uptake as are most people here)

However i agree with everything Paul G says about his metal box fixation :)

December 17, 2010 9:51 pm

@ Mike

Don’t worry. Pakistan is perfectly stable. North Korea will never shell the south meaning China has to intervene. Iran’s nuclear programme is only for civilian purposes. Turkey won’t turn any further to the East away from Europe.

You need to chillax dude.

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
December 17, 2010 10:05 pm

@ X

Hmmm, you know where i’m coming from.

Making thousands of other people run serious risks to life & limbe, due to you own dogmatic political ideology, is to me, the height of moral corruption.

The more i think about it, the worse it gets.


December 17, 2010 10:24 pm

There is school of thought in the field of International Relations that inter state warfare will soon be a thing of the past. We are so interconnected and interdependent, especially in Europe, that war between states can’t happen.

Personally I can’t see Leopards of the Bundeswehr’s Heer rolling their jolly way to Paris. But say, I don’t know, the Euro collapses and Germany re-establishes the Mark. And in the scramble to a new order some of the argy-bargy turns to kinectic diplomacy. A Storm Shadow in somebody’s oil refinery. Or frigates exchanging fire as trawlers are arrested in what have returned to “territorial” (loosely used there) waters. I can see a return to a pre-Napoleonic system of warfare with a hint of balance of power paradigm. Small well trained expensively equipped armed forces at the sharp end of diplomacy. Especially at sea. As Churchill said a lot goes on sea out of sight of land. And even in the NATO era allies have sent assets to watch other NATO allies if they thought there interests were “threatened.” Lest we forget at sea the Cold War was sometimes quite warm.

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
December 18, 2010 12:23 am

DD @ 11.47

The P1150 looks like a sandblasted Harrier to my untutored eyes.

On the subject of the engine I think the 2 “Basking Shark” air intakes will need tidying up and the front two nozzles are fan driven but a bit of work on the engine would produce some interesting results.

30K lbs of thrust should be on the agenda without needing the involvement of a Nobel prize winner.

Work on the wing and fuselage would be needed but the basics are there, supercruise would be nice but could be left to the Harrier IV.

Unladen weight of 15K lbs
Loaded weight of 20K lbs
VTOL Max Laden weight = 26K lbs
CTOL max Laden weight = 38K lbs

Keep the airframe and engine on a diet and it would soon become a very useful platform

December 18, 2010 12:14 pm

Funny that the Hunter was mentioned twice in this thread. I was only thinking recently that the hunter would still make a good CAS platform. I remember someone saying once that the hunters quad Aden cannon was a good poor man’s alternative to the A10s Gatling.

Still think there is a Market for the Harrier III though.

Ps anyone annoyed by the media saying it had been in service 40 years giving the impression that they were knackered old things?

December 18, 2010 5:05 pm

Kentish Paul

I knew that, that is the problem. and why the fan on the harrier is bigger than any comparrable thrust fighter engine.

RR have had a number of proposals over the years for “Big Fan” Pegasus up to 32.000lbs thrust (not bad on an engine that started out at about 16,000). The only reason AV8B did not get one is because when project strted the powers that be, still had an idea to rebuild exist airframes to the new standard.

It would be quite easy to clean up the harrrier airframe, give it 2010 electrics, mutch of the Grippen stuff would fit in, combined with the best modern bvr misiles.

It would not be that stealthy and would remain at best transonic, but I bet RR could squeeze anothe 3-4000lbs out of the engine and (Gulp) BAE, reduce the transconic drag to the poitn where it could supercruise above say 20,000ft.

Provided you set the goals at the start of the programm using available technolgy, a perfectly good Ground attack, maritime anti ship strike aircraft, with a very useful (if not world beating) Air to air capability could be created.

And this time round I could see it selling.

December 18, 2010 5:50 pm

I love the Harrier, but how would you square the following with the next model
– F35B already melts the tarmac (or ruins the steel deck) when lifting
– Yak 141 (very similar, if you look at it, but without stealth) did not get “up” with weapon load at all without using afterburners!

What’s the answer? I am equally bad in aeronautical engineering as I am as a shipwright; but I have run a lot of feasibility and Cost/Benefit studies in various fields

December 18, 2010 6:33 pm


The Harrier adopted what at the time (early mid 60’s)was regarded as a bit of a half arsed stepping stone towards a propper supersonic whiz bang fighter. It grew out of the Kestral project to find a vstol light ground attack fighter for europe.

The problem is that its idea of using the bypass air to power front nozzles, and the turbine part ot power the rear, means you have to have a big fan, which as I have pointed out above without some very clever duct work, means a low (for fighters), theoretical top speed. I do say theoretical as despite what the tally ho chaps would have you believe, very few profiles actually call for supersonic abillity.

So it was seen as a bit of cheating way to do it, and in due course the aeronautical geniuses of the US USSR, and europe would come up with much better way, but for now, for this limited role ‘it would do’.

The problem is (without producing a post a mile long), it is more efficent in lift terms to move a big bit air slowly, rather than a small bit of air very fast. Thats why helicopters lift more than a Harrier without anything like the power. But in order to have supersonic flight you need to move a small bit of air fast.

So if you want to go fast, you need in effect either an engine that can work both ways; (no one has ever managed to design one that works), or one that can move a small amount of air fast enough to do the lift job any way, in effect brute force.

The only practical way of doing that has many frankly Poncy names, like RAELS (as used in Yak and f35B), or Plenium chamber burning (what RR call it, and they made it work in the early 80’s on test rigs using pegasus). But they are all the same – essentially afterburners pointing downwards.

When the ‘cool’ bleed air from a front nozzle of a pegasus can be many hundreds of degrees, with PCB or raels, in effect you are pointing a blast furnace at the ground, the problems with f 35 should have surprised no one RR got exactly the same results 30 years ago!

Harrier 3 would suffer none of these problems. As it would stick to the proven idea and the same tecnology, and accept the limitations.

December 18, 2010 6:41 pm

Sorry I forgot to add you can used 2 engines one for each job, but it cost too much weight, cost, to much money and is a maintence nightmare. The old Soviet Yak tried that.

December 18, 2010 6:53 pm

You mean ” The old Soviet Yak tried that” as in the previous to Yak-141 (the latter never produced)?

They built a couple of “aircraft carriers” for the former, but that could never carry more than the two engines plus half an hour’s fuel, so what a waste of ships.

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
December 18, 2010 7:19 pm


I don’t know that they were that much of a waste.

They had lots of varied missile & gun systems, also they could carry a fair number of ASW helicopters.

More like a much meaner version of the Invincible class, without the fighters. I’d certainly want to think twice before sending a surface action group against one.

December 18, 2010 7:47 pm

Hi Michael (Civ),

I put my words in wrong order: What a waste of great ships (Kiev, Minsk, Novosibirsk and Baku)when the only aircraft you could put on them were scare crow Yak-38s (plus helos).

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
December 18, 2010 8:03 pm


A lot of people seem to think the KGB & GRU were very, very good at what they did.

I was always a bit suprised, that they never fielded a Harrerski of their own.

I think at least 2 of the aircraft the Soviet Union built were almost direct copies of other western aircraft. I remember reading about a team of russions who were allowed onboard a C-141 Starlifter, not that long afterwards they came out with their own version. Also i think they came out with their own version of the P-3 Orion too.

December 18, 2010 8:48 pm

RE “they never fielded a Harrerski”
– well, they sure tried, and got close

The innovations, like helmet aiming of missiles, without turning the aircraft, that were ten years ahead have been mentioned on this site.

There is a lot coming (I can’t understand how the design bureaus survived the drought in funding from the early 90’s onwards; perhaps that is just it: design is separated from industrialising it?). A bit like Design & Build, if you want your house without conflicted interests dominating the process.

So what is the “lot”
– Ka-5+ helos are very good (but there are gaps in some key technologies holding them back)
– T50/ PAK FA is very good (?) and funded 50/50 with the Indians
– The tactical lift $$/ ton of capacity will be revolutionised by the Russo/ Indian development (does it need to be the best? No, just get the job done in the required volumes)

Harrier can take us anywhere… as you can see (no, really it is about the ability to apply technologies if you only set down clearly what needs to be achieved)
– more on that when we get the defence procurement thread
– my favourite: Capabilities Management (and managing the risks along the way)

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
December 18, 2010 11:25 pm

– 17/12 3:38pm

AV-16 was a 1970’s project between HSA and McDonell that wound down before being resurrected as Harrier II.

@FBOT – 12:23am (R U a insomniac? :-)

Actually, P.1150 predates the Harrier and led to the abortive P.1154 supersonic VSTOL project.

Kentish Paul
Kentish Paul
December 19, 2010 5:02 pm


As i’ve said before the Harrier as regards RAF use was a red herring. What was needed was an up to date CAS platform, (maybe Hunter 2, maybe something else). The VSTOL capability of the Harrier was never going to be of any use unless in a limited skirmish scenario. In a full WW3 situation the main bases would go and the field based Harriers would manage 1 sortie and then have nowhere to go, the same as for a conventional force based at conventional airfields, enough warning and 1 sortie before the bombs/missiles started falling.

The ultimate use of the Harrier, in both its incarnations, was as a ship borne aircraft, given that the MOD would not provide (for whatever reason) the RN with proper aircraft carriers. Given this situation the FAA grabbed the Sea Harrier with both hands to use on the “Through deck cruisers”. Whilst not perfect, I think we can say it was satisfactory.