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Siddeley Harrier

"I still don't believe the Harrier. Think of the millions that have been spent on VTO in America and Russia, and quite a bit in Europe, and yet the only vertical take-off aircraft which you can call a success is the Harrier. When I saw the Harrier hovering and flying backwards under control, I reckoned I'd seen everything. And it's not difficult to fly." - Sir Thomas Sopwith.
Great innovations has always been at the heart of the aviation industry and the story of VSTOL shows just what can be achieved by great men.  The Harrier story contains 3 such great men...
Sydney Camm
Sydney Camm: Camm was born in Windsor in 1893 and was responsible for such engineering achievements as the Hawker Hurricane and Hawker Hunter.  Camm was infamous for his ‘one-tracked mind that did not suffer fools gladly’ and as Hawker Siddeley Chief Designer during the 1950’s, he assembled one of the finest group of aviation engineers in the UK.  His vision and determination led the team to solve so many different problems, never even contemplated in previous aircraft design.
Ralph Hooper
Ralph Hooper: The youngster of the team being born in January 1927, Hooper (Chief Designer of the project) led the team during a period when a large proportion of traditional aircraft ventures were either being cancelled or abandoned. However, the privately funded design of the Harrier emerged in 1958 and drew the production of a General Operational Requirement (GOR) for a vertical take-off aircraft and the eventual issue of a full specification from the Ministry in 1959.
Stanley Hooker
Stanley Hooker: 50 year old Stanley Hooker of Bristol-Siddeley was responsible for the power of the P1127/Kestrel FGA and along with aero-engine designer Gordon Lewis was predominantly responsible for the creation of the Pegasus engine and its use in the vectored-thrust project. Bristol Siddeley merged with Rolls-Royce Ltd in 1968 and although Hooker had retired a year earlier, he remained a consultant during the further development of the Harrier.


When the Hawker P.1127 prototype XP831 made its first tethered ‘hovering flight’ on October 21st 1960, it started a revolution in British military aviation technology that is yet to be matched.
Within just a few short months XP831, and a second P.1127 prototype (XP836), Hawker Siddeley would prove that British technological 'know-how' could realise a dream that had eluded many other manufacturers around the world:  To produce a practical fixed-wing aircraft with the ability to take-off and land vertically, just like a helicopter, whilst retaining the speed and manoeuvrability of a modern, front-line combat aircraft. 
During the 1960’s, the Hawker Siddeley Harrier or ‘Jump-Jet’ became the world’s only true VSTOL aircraft (vertical and / or short take-off and landing).
The story of the Harrier however, really begins with the P.1127 back in the latter part of the 1950’s.

Hawker P.1127

Hawker aeroplanes are always beautiful, nothing wrong with a Hawker aeroplane, and we are not going to bother with that - Vertical first time" - Sydney Camm – 1960.
Sydney Camm and Ralph Hooper of The Hawker Aircraft Company and Stanley Hooker of Bristol Aero Engine Company began initial development and design of the P.1127 way back in 1957, utilising the Bristol Pegasus vectored-thrust engine in their desire to explore its potential for vertical take-off.
Testing finally began in July 1960 and by the end of the year the prototype P.1127 (XP831) had achieved both vertical take-off and horizontal flight.
That first ‘Tethered flight’ was achieved on 21st October 1960 at Dunsfold Aerodrome and ‘free-flight’ followed within just a month, both in the expert and very brave hands of Test Pilot Bill Bedford.
A second prototype (XP836) made its first, conventional runway take-off in July 1961 and along with XP831 engineers, designers and test pilots refined the engineering and techniques needed for controlled vertical take-off, which was finally achieved in September that year.
Hawker P1127 first tethered flight 1960 Hawker P1127 first tethered flight 1960
Four more P.1127 aircraft were produced to enhance pilot familiarisation and the further development of the Pegasus engine. The test program also investigated the potential for landing on aircraft carriers and the first successful touchdown on HMS Ark Royal which was achieved in 1963.
The last of the initial prototypes (XP984) was fitted with the Pegasus 5 power unit and it was this airframe that became the first Kestrel prototype.

Hawker Kestrel

In addition to the more powerful engine, Kestrel also varied from the early P.1127 in so far as it featured fully swept wings and a larger tail.
Nine aircraft were built for assessment by the Tri-partite Evaluation Squadron (T.E.S was made up of pilots - six from Britain and two each from the United States and West Germany).
The first Kestrel FGA1in colours of the Tripartite Evaluation Squadron The first Kestrel FGA1in colours of the Tripartite Evaluation Squadron
The first Kestrel flew on 7th March 1964 and by the time the evaluation was complete in November 1965, a total of 960 sorties had been made including 1,366 take-offs and landings.

Hawker Harrier

Developed initially as an operational, close-support and reconnaissance fighter aircraft, the Harrier evolved directly from the Hawker P.1127 and the Kestrel F.G.A.1 prototype aircraft.
During 1965, Hawker’s supersonic aircraft (P.1154) had been cancelled by the incoming Labour government and so all work at Kingston had ceased. The Ministry then issued Requirement ASR384 for a V/STOL Ground attack Aircraft supplemented by an immediate order for 6 pre-production developments of the Kestrel, to be known as the P.1127 RAF.
The design was more closely based on the lesson learnt with the early Kestrel prototypes and following successful trials the first aircraft flew on 31st August 1966.  Within a year the RAF ordered 60 aircraft into production, all to be named Harrier GR1.
The first RAF Squadron to be equipped with the Harrier GR.1 was RAF No.1 Squadron at Wittering in April 1969 and signalled the beginning of over four decades of RAF Service.
Four Harrier GR1s of the then newly-formed 20 Squadron fly in immaculate formation Four Harrier GR1s of the then newly-formed 20 Squadron fly in immaculate formation
A demonstration of the Harrier's capabilities was exhibited in May 1969 when two aircraft took part in the Daily Mail Transatlantic Air Race, flying between St Pancras Railway Station in London and downtown Manhattan in the USA (with the use of aerial refuelling) - The Harrier completed the journey in just 6 hours and 11 minutes.
Harrier would go on to serve with the UK and several nations worldwide, often as a carrier-based aircraft (See British Aerospace Sea Harrier).  In service with the RAF, Harrier was strategically positioned with the bulk of the aircraft stationed in West Germany to defend against a potential invasion of Western Europe by the Warsaw Pact forces.
The Harrier’s unique abilities allowed the RAF to disperse their forces away from vulnerable airbases, often hidden in wooded areas whilst on exercises or on genuine deployment.  Harrier squadrons saw several deployments overseas as the aircraft’s ability to operate with minimal ground facilities and very short runways allowed its use at locations not available to conventional fixed-wing military aircraft.

British Aerospace Harrier II / McDonnell Douglas AV8-B

During the 1980’s, the Harrier saw further development as a joint venture between British Aerospace at Dunsfold / Kingston and the McDonnell Douglas Corporation in the USA.
The aircraft featured an elevated cockpit for better all-round visibility, revised engine intakes and exhausts together with much improved avionics.  By far the most significant improvement was the use of composites in the one-piece wing which reduced the overall weight whilst increasing the payload capacity.
McDonnell Douglas AV-8B McDonnell Douglas AV-8B
The US Marine Corps used their Harriers (known as AV-8B Harrier II) primarily for Day and Night Close-Air Support operations whilst in the UK the RAF took delivery of Harrier II GR5, GR7, GR7a, GR9 and GR9a aircraft with increased thrust, improved avionics and weapons capabilities.

British Aerospace Sea Harrier

The Sea Harrier (informally known as the ‘Shar’) is a naval short take-off and vertical landing / vertical take-off and landing jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft. 
In 1963, the Hawker Siddeley P1127 hand landed on HMS Ark Royal in 1963 and it was some 15 years later that the prototype ‘Navalised-Harrier’ took to the air over Dunsfold on 20th August 1978.
Utilising the vectored-thrust technology developed during the 1960’s as part of the P1127 / Kestrel / Harrier program, Sea Harrier provided a unique vertical short take-off / landing (V/STOL) capability whilst at sea.
Sea Harrier FRS Mk2 RN XZ497 Sea Harrier FRS Mk2 RN XZ497
The Royal Navy had already pre-ordered 24 aircraft, based on the results being achieved by the RAF with the Harrier GR1 and by the time of the first flight this had been increased to 34 aircraft.
The British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS1 entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980, during an era in which most naval and land-based air superiority fighters were large and supersonic. The principal role of the subsonic Sea Harrier was to provide air defence for naval aircraft carriers and surface ships around the world.
The aircraft saw service distinction during the Falklands Conflict of 1982 as well as during both of the Gulf Wars and the Balkans conflict.  On all occasions, the Sea Harriers mainly operated from aircraft carriers positioned within the conflict zones. 
The usage in the Falklands was probably the most high profile and important success recorded in theatre when it was the only fixed-wing fighter available to protect the British Task Force.  Flying off of HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes (now INS Viraat), the Sea Harriers defeated 20 enemy aircraft during the encounter with just one lost to enemy ground fire.
Despite a vigorous marketing campaign by British Aerospace, the Sea Harrier only saw customer sales to India despite enormous interest from the military authorities of both Argentina and Australia.
In 1993, an updated version was developed for the Royal Navy (Sea Harrier FA2) featuring a more powerful engine, a much improved weapon systems and enhanced air-to-air capabilities.
Manufacturing of the Sea Harrier ceased in 1998 with the last aircraft retiring from Royal Naval service in 2006.

The end of an era

Sadly, the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) of July 1998 was to signal the end of the UK’s military involvement with the much-loved Harrier and following the ‘early retirement’ of the Navy’s Sea Harriers between 2004 and 2006, the remaining aircraft were consolidated by the RAF into ‘The Harrier Force’.  This was a short-lived program however and it was superseded by yet another Strategic Defence Review, published on 19th October 2010.
This announced ‘the early retirement’ of the Harrier Force aircraft (Harrier GR7’s& GR9’s) and in the UK the aircraft was finally withdrawn from UK military service by the RAF in March 2011.
The Final Flypast at RAF Cottesmore The Final Flypast at RAF Cottesmore
On 15th December 2010, a 16 aircraft flypast from RAF Cottesmore and Ceremonial ‘Walk of Honour’ marked the final operational flights of British Harriers and ended 41 years of service.


6 built
Experimental V/STOL fighter
Kestrel FGA.1
9 built
Tripartite Evaluation Squadron aircraft
P.1127 (RAF)
6 built  
Development V/STOL Ground attack & Reconnaissance Fighter
6 conversions
US Designation for Kestrel FGA1
0 delivered
US Designation for P.1127
61 built
Production version of P.1127 (RAF)
58 built
Updated GR1 (engine)
40 built
Improved sensors and tracking (in lengthened nose)
AV-8A Harrier
102 built
Single-seat ground attack and close air support
Upgraded AV-8A for US Marine Corps
AV-8S Matador Export version of AV-8A for Spainish Navy (later with Royal Thai Navy)  Also known as Mk53 and Mk55
Harrier T.2 Lengthened 2-seat trainer for RAF
Harrier T.2A Upgraded T.2 (Pegasus Mk102)
Harrier T.4 2-seat trainer for the RAF (equivalent to GR.3
Harrier T4.A T.4 without laser seeker or radar warning system (Also featured short-fin of single seater)
Harrier T.4N 2-seat trainer for Royal Navy (based on Sea Harrier FRS.1) with avionics (excluding radar)
Harrier T.4(I)
4 conversions
Conversion of T.4 airframes for Indian Navy.
Harrier T.8 Naval trainer fitted with Sea Harrier avionics
Harrier T.52
1 built
2 seat demonstrator variant of T.2.
Harrier T.60 Export version of T.4N for Indian Navy
TAV-8A Harrier
8 built
2 seat trainer for US Marine Corps (Also designated Mk54)
TAV-8S Matador Export version of TAV-8A for Spanish Navy (Later sold to Royal Thai Navy)
BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1
57 built
Production aircraft - most survivors now converted to Sea Harrier FA2
BAe Sea Harrier FRS.51 Single seat fighter and reconnaissance variant for Indian Navy
BAe Sea Harrier F(A).2 Upgrade of FRS.1 fleet in 1988 with new radar and missiles
2 conversions
Prototype conversions of AV-8A airframe
MD AV-8B Harrier II
4 Development aircraft
162 Production aircraft
Day attack variant
MB AV-8B Harrier II NA Night attack variant with infa-red camera and upgraded cockpit (night vision)
MD AV-8B Harrier II+
72 Conversions
43 built
Night attack variant with new radar - Converted from existing AV-8B and new built (1993-97)
MD TAV-8B Harrier II Two seat trainer (1986-92)
MD TAV-8B Harrier II+ Two seat trainer built for Italy (1990-91)
MD EAV-8B Matador II
12 built
Spanish Navy variant (1987-88)
MD EAV-8B Matador II+
11 Conversions
8 built
Spanish Navy variant - Converted from EAV-8B and new built (1995-97)
BAe Harrier II GR5
41 built
2nd generation production aircraft
BAe Harrier II GR5A Minor changes from GR5 in anticipation of GR7
BAe Harrier II GR7
Upgrade of GR5
BAe Harrier II GR7a Uprated engine for 'hot and high' carrier-borne operations
BAe Harrier II GR9 Uprated avionics and weapons systems
BAE Harrier II GR9a Uprated engine from GR7a and avionics and weapons from GR9
BAE Harrier II T10 Original two seat training version of Harrier II as used for basis for the design of the US Marine Trainer and the TAV-8B
BAE Harrier II T12
9 conversions
Uprated T10 aircraft to receive the JUMP update - Less powerful Pegasus 105 engine

Specification (Harrier GR3)

1 × Rolls-Royce Pegasus 103 turbofan with four swivelling nozzles, 21,500 lbf  / 95.6 kN
Span: 25 ft 3 in / 7.70 m
Maximum Weight: 25,200 lb / 11,430 kg (Take-off)
Capacity: 1 pilot
Maximum Speed: 730 mph / 635 knots / 1,176 km/h at sea level
Maximum Range:  1 hr 30 min (combat air patrol – 115 mi (185 km) from base)


MD AV-8A (158966) Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Harrier GR.1 (XV277)
National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland
Harrier GR.1 (XV278) Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr, Gatow, Germany
Harrier GR.3 (XV744) Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Chichester, West Sussex, UK
Harrier GR.3 (XV748)
Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington, UK
Harrier GR.3 (XV751) Gatwick Aviation Museum, Surrey, UK.
Harrier GR.3 (XV752) Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, UK
Harrier GR.3 (XV753) Classic Air Force, St Mawgan, Newquay, Cornwall, UK
Harrier GR.3 (XV779) RAF Wittering (Gate Guardian), Cambridgeshire, UK
Harrier GR.3 (XW919) Polish Aviation Museum, Kraków, Poland.
Harrier GR.3 (XZ129) Ashburton Aviation Museum, Ashburton, New Zealand.
Marrier GR.3 (XZ133) Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire, UK
Harrier GR.3 (XZ968) Muckleburgh Collection, Weybourne, Norfolk, UK
Harrier GR.3 (XZ997) RAF Museum, Hendon, London, UK
Harrier GR.3 (XZ998) Flugausstellung Leo Junior at Hermeskeil, Germany.
Sea Harrier (ZD611, ZH804, ZH811) RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, UK
Sea Harrier FA2 (XZ439) TMk8 (ZD992)  Nalls Aviation St Mary's County, Maryland, USA
Sea Harrier FA2 (XZ459) Private owner near Shoreham Airport.
Sea Harrier FA2 (ZA195) Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Chichester, West Sussex, UK
Sea Harrier FA2 (ZE694) Midland Air Museum, Coventry, UK
Sea Harrier FA2 (ZH796) Cosford DSAE, RAF Cosford, UK
Sea Harrier FA2s (XZ440, ZD579, ZE690, ZE692, ZH797, ZH798, ZH802, ZH803, ZH813) School of Flight Deck Operations at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, UK
Sea Harrier FRS51 (IN621)  Naval Aviation Museum (India) in Goa, India
Sea Harrier FRS1 (XZ493)
Sea Harrier FA2 (XZ499)
Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, Somerset, UK
Sea Harrier FRS1/FA2 (XZ457) Boscombe Down Aviation Collection, Boscombe, wiltshire, UK
Sea Harrier FRS1/FA2 (ZA176) Newark Air Museum, Newark, Nottinghamshire, UK
Sea Harrier T.8
Everett Aero in Suffolk and is now believed to be privately owned in the Manchester area.
Harrier T Mk52
Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, Surrey, UK

More information

The Hawker Association (
Brooklands Museum (
Yorkshire Air Museum ( (
Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum (