BAE Sea Harrier

BAE Sea Harrier

Infobox Aircraft
name= Sea Harrier

caption= A Sea Harrier FA2 of 801 NAS in flight at the Royal International Air Tattoo.
type= V/STOL attack aircraft
national origin = United Kingdom
manufacturers= Hawker Siddeley British Aerospace BAE Systems
first flight=
introduced= 20 August 1978 (FRS1) 2 April 1993 (FA2)
retired= March 2006 (Royal Navy)
status= Active service with Indian Navy
primary user= Royal Navy
more users= Indian Navy
number built=
unit cost=US$18 million in 1991 [ [ Military aircraft prices] ]
developed from = Hawker Siddeley Harrier
variants with their own articles = AV-8B Harrier II BAE Harrier II

The BAE Systems Sea Harrier is a naval VTOL/STOVL jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft, a development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. It first entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS1. The latest version is the Sea Harrier FA2. Informally known as the "Shar", the Sea Harrier was withdrawn from Royal Navy service in March 2006.


In 1966 the planned CVA-01 class aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy were cancelled, apparently ending the Royal Navy's involvement in fixed-wing carrier aviation. However, beginning in the early 1970s, the first of a new class of "through deck cruisers" was planned, carefully named to avoid the term "aircraft carrier" to increase the chances of funding. These ships would eventually become the "Invincible" class aircraft carriers. With little modification, a 'ski-jump' was added to the end of the 170 m deck, enabling the carriers to operate a small number of V/STOL jets.

ea Harrier FRS1

HMS Invincible

The Royal Air Force's Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR1s had entered service in April 1969. In 1975 the Royal Navy ordered 34 Sea Harrier FRS.1s (later FRS1)(Fighter/Reconnaissance/Strike Mk. 1), the first of which entered service in 1978. In total 57 FRS1s were delivered between 1978 and 1988.

Harrier T4N

The Harrier T4N is not strictly a variant of the Sea Harrier, but is a two-seat naval training version of the Harrier T2. Four Harrier T4N were purchased by the Royal Navy for land-based training. It did not have radar and had a few Sea Harrier instruments, but was used for pilot conversion training for the Sea Harrier FRS1.

ea Harrier FRS51

Single-seat fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft. The Sea Harrier FRS51 is similar to the FRS1. Unlike the British Sea Harrier, it is fitted with Matra R550 Magic air-to-air missiles. The first of twenty-three FRS51s were delivered to the Indian Navy in 1983.

Harrier T60

Export version of the T4N two-seat training version for the Indian Navy. At least four Harrier T60s were purchased by the Indian Navy for land-based training.

ea Harrier FA2

Lessons learned from the aircraft's performance in the Falklands led to the requirement for an upgrade of the fleet, incorporating increased air-to-air weapons load, look-down radar, increased range, and improved cockpit displays. Approval for an upgrade to FRS.2 standard was given in 1984. First flight of the prototype took place on September 1988 and a contract was signed for 29 upgraded aircraft in December that year, with the upgraded aircraft to be known as the F/A.2 (later FA2). In 1990 the Navy ordered 18 new-build FA2s, at a unit cost of around £12 million, and a further 5 upgrades were ordered in 1994. The Sea Harrier FA2 featured the Blue Vixen radar, which was described as one of the most advanced pulse doppler radar systems in the world. The Blue Vixen formed the basis for development of the Eurofighter Typhoon's CAPTOR radar. The Sea Harrier FA2 carries the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile and was the first UK aircraft to be provided with this capability. The first aircraft was delivered on 2 April 1993 and the first operational deployment was in April 1994 as part of the UN force in Bosnia.

The final new-build Sea Harrier FA2 was delivered on 18 January 1999.

Harrier T8

Seven Harrier T4s two-seat trainers updated with Sea Harrier FA2 instrumentation but no radar. Retired from service in March 2006.


The Sea Harrier was largely based on the Harrier GR3, but was modified to have a raised cockpit with a "bubble" canopy (to give better visibility for the air defence role) and an extended forward fuselage to accommodate the Ferranti (now BAE Systems) Blue Fox radar. Parts were changed to use corrosion resistant alloys or coatings were added to protect against the marine environment.Jenkins 1998, pp. 51-55.]

The cockpit in the Sea Harrier includes a conventional centre stick arrangement and left-hand throttle. In addition to normal flight controls, the Harrier has a lever for controlling the direction of the four vectorable nozzles. The nozzles point rearward with the lever in the forward position for horizontal flight. With the lever back, the nozzles point downward for vertical takeoff or landing. [Markman, Steve and Bill Holder. "MAC-DAC/BAe AV-8 Harrier Vectored Thrust VTOL". "Straight Up: A History of Vertical Flight". Schiffer Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7643-1204-9.] Jenkins 1998, p. 25.]

Operational history

Falklands War

Sea Harriers took part in the Falklands War of 1982, flying from the aircraft carriers HMS "Invincible" and "HMS Hermes". The Sea Harriers were to operate in their primary air defence role with a secondary role of ground attack, with the RAF Harrier GR3 providing the main ground attack force. The Sea Harrier squadrons shot down 21 Argentine aircraft in air-to-air combat with no air-to-air losses, although two Sea Harriers were lost to ground fire and four to accidents. [ [ One of Our Aircraft is Missing] ,]

A number of factors contributed to the failure of the Argentinian fighters to shoot down a Sea Harrier.Fact|date=September 2008 Although the Mirage III and Dagger jets were considerably faster, the Sea Harrier was more manoeuvrable. Moreover, the Harrier employed the latest AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles and the Blue Fox radar. The British pilots had superior air-combat training, one manifestation of which was that they noticed Argentinian pilots occasionally releasing weapons outside of their operating parameters.Fact|date=September 2008

British aircraft received fighter control from warships in San Carlos Water, although its effectiveness was limited by their being stationed close to the islands, which severely limited the effectiveness of their radar.

Both sides' aircraft were operating in adverse conditions. Argentine aircraft were forced to operate from the mainland because airfields on the Falklands were only suited for propellor-driven transports. [ [ Argentine Airpower in the Falklands War] , Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2002.] In addition, fears partly aroused by the bombing of Port Stanley airport by a British Vulcan bomber added to the Argentinians' decision to operate them from afar. As most Argentine aircraft lacked in-flight refuelling capability, they were forced to operate at the limit of their range. The Sea Harriers also had limited fuel reserves due to the tactical decision to station the British carriers out of Exocet missile range and the dispersal of the fleet. The result was that, although an Argentine aircraft could only allow five minutes over the islands to search and attack an objective and without any capable air-to-air missile, a Sea Harrier could stay near to 30 minutes waiting in the Argentine approach corridors.

The Sea Harriers were outnumbered by the available Argentinian aircraft and were on occasion decoyed away by the activities of the "Escuadrón Fénix" or civilian jet aircraft used by the Argentine Air Force. They had to operate without a fleet early warning system such as AWACS that would have been available to a full NATO fleet in which the Royal Navy had expected to operate.

The result was that the Sea Harriers could not establish complete air superiority and prevent Argentine attacks during day or night, nor could they stop the daily C-130 Hercules transports' night flights to the islands. A total of six Sea Harriers were lost to either ground fire, accidents or mechanical failure during the war. [ [ Harriers lost in the Falklands] ,]

Bosnia and Kosovo

It was deployed by the United Kingdom in the 1991–1995 war in Bosnia (part of Yugoslav wars) as a part of the international operations Deny flight, and Deliberate Force directed against Army of Republika Srpska. In 1994 a Sea Harrier of the 801 Naval Air Squadron operating from the light carrier HMS Ark Royal was brought down by a SAM fired by Army of Republika Srpska (most probably Strela 2) while attempting to bomb two Serbian tanks. The pilot, Lieutenant Nick Richardson ejected and landed in the territory controlled by friendly Bosnian Muslims. He later described his experiences in a book titled "No Escape Zone". [ [ Historical warfare] ]

It was used again in 1999 NATO campaign against Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (operation Allied Force).

Royal Navy retirement

The Sea Harrier was withdrawn from service in 2006 and the last remaining aircraft from 801 Squadron were decommissioned on 29 March 2006. [ [ "Last Sea Harriers' flight at base."] BBC NEWS, England. Retrieved: 15 July 2008.] The plans were announced in 2002 by the Ministry of Defence. The aircraft's replacement, the Lockheed/Northrop/BAE F-35, is not due until 2012 at the earliest. However, the MoD argued that significant expenditure would be required to upgrade the fleet for only six years of service.

Both versions of Harrier experienced reduced engine performance (Pegasus Mk 106 in FA2 - Mk 105 in GR7) in the higher ambient temperatures of the Middle East and this restricted the payloads able to be returned to the carrier decks in 'vertical' recoveries. Typically, in the era of 'Joint Force Harrier' combined operations in such theatres, the GR7 component detached from the carrier approximately two weeks before the Sea Harrier deck operations ceased. This was solely due to the safety factors associated with aircraft "land-on" weights. The natural option to install higher rated Pegasus engines would not be as straightforward as the Harrier GR7 upgrade and would likely be an expensive and slow process. Furthermore, the Sea Harriers were subject to a generally more hostile environment than land-based Harriers, with corrosive salt spray a particular problem. As of March 2006, all Sea Harriers have been retired from service. A number of aircraft have been retained for use by the School of Flight Deck Operations at RNAS Culdrose, and in theory these could be regenerated if needed.

The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm will continue to share the other component of Joint Force Harrier, the Harrier GR7 and the upgraded Harrier GR9 with the RAF, with the two front-line squadrons, 800 NAS re-commissioned in 6 April and 801 NAS are expected to reform in 2007 both using the GR9 by 2007. The projected purchase of around 150 F-35s will be split between the two services and they will operate from the Royal Navy's Future Carrier (CVF).

Indian Navy upgrades

The Indian Navy is in the process of upgrading up to fifteen Sea Harriers in collaboration with Israel by installing the Elta EL/M-2032 radar and the Rafael 'Derby' medium range air to air missile. This will enable the Sea Harrier to remain in Indian service until beyond 2012, and also see limited service off the new carriers it will acquire by that time frame.

The Indian Navy is currently interested in acquiring up to eight of the Royal Navy's retired Sea Harrier FA2s in order to maintain their operational Sea Harrier fleet. [ [ Hover and out: UK Royal Navy retires the Sea Harrier] ] which consists of 13 Pegasus 104-powered Sea Harrier FRS51s. If the deal goes through it will have to involve ongoing support from BAE Systems and Rolls Royce. The sale will not involve the Sea Harrier FA2's Blue Vixen radar, the RWR and the AMRAAM capability. [ [ Hover and out: UK Royal Navy retires the Sea Harrier] ] Certain US software will be deleted prior to shipment. With the loss of another Sea Harrier on 24 December 2007 (attempting a vertical landing, pilot ejected to safety), the total number of Sea Harriers with the Indian Navy has fallen to 13. India purchased 30 Sea Harriers in 1983, using 25 of these for operational flying and the remaining to train pilots. Since then seven pilots have died in 17 crashes involving the Sea Harrier and more than half of the fleet is now gone, lost mostly to routine sorties. [ [ Sea Harrier crashes, pilot safe- Hindustan Times ] ]


;Sea Harrier FRS1:Initial production version of a navalised Harrier, 57 built survivors converted to Sea Harrier FA2;Sea Harrier FA2:Upgraded version, new build and conversions from FRS1.;Sea Harrier FRS51:Indian Navy variant of the FRS1, 23 built


* Indian Navy
** No. 300 Squadron

* Fleet Air Arm
** 800 Naval Air Squadron
** 801 Naval Air Squadron
** 809 Naval Air Squadron
** 899 Naval Air Squadron


* Sea Harrier FA2 ZE694, Midland Air Museum, Coventry, England.

pecifications (Sea Harrier FA2)

aircraft specifications

plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=jet

ref= Norden [Norden 2006, Appendix C.]
length main=46 ft 6 in
length alt=14.2 m
span main=25 ft 3 in
span alt=7.6 m
height main=12 ft 4 in
height alt=3.71 m
area main=201.1 ft²
area alt=18.68 m²
empty weight main=14,052 lb
empty weight alt=6,374 kg
loaded weight main=
loaded weight alt=
max takeoff weight main=26,200 lb
max takeoff weight alt=11,900 kg
engine (jet)=Rolls-Royce Pegasus
type of jet=turbofan
number of jets=1
thrust main=21,500 lbf
thrust alt=95.64 kN
max speed main=635 knots
max speed alt=735 mph, 1182 km/h
combat radius main= 540 nmi
combat radius alt=620 mi, 1,000 km
ferry range main=1,740 nmi
ferry range alt=2,000 mi, 3,600 km
ceiling main=51,000 ft
ceiling alt=16,000 m
climb rate main=50,000 ft/min
climb rate alt=250 m/s
loading main=
loading alt=

guns=2× 30 mm (1.18 in) ADEN cannon pods under the fuselage
rockets=4× Matra rocket pods with 18× SNEB 68 mm rockets each
bombs=5,000 lb (2,268 kg) of payload on four external hardpoints, including a variety of bombs, WE.177 (until 1992), reconnaissance pods, "or" Drop tanks for extended range
** AIM-9 Sidewinder
** R550 Magic (Sea Harrier FRS51)
** Sea Eagle
** Martel missile

Popular culture

The Harrier's unique characteristics have led to it being featured a number of films and video games.

ee also

see also=
* Harrier Jump Jet, an overview of the Harrier family
* Hawker Siddeley Harrier
* AV-8B Harrier II
* BAE Harrier II
similar aircraft=
* Boeing X-32
* F-35 Lightning II
* Yakovlev Yak-38
* List of aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm
* List of attack aircraft
* List of fighter aircraft




* Gunston, Bill and Mike Spick. Modern Air Combat: The Aircraft, Tactics and Weapons Employed in Aerial Warfare Today. New York: Crescent Books, 1983. ISBN 0-51741-265-9.
* Jenkins, Dennis R. "Boeing/BAe Harrier". North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 1998. ISBN 1-58007-014-0.
* Spick, Mike and Bill Gunston. "The Great Book of Modern Warplanes". Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7603-0893-4.

External links

* [ British Aerospace Sea Harrier]
* [ Sea Harrier Still Alive and Kicking (archive article)]

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