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Hawker Siddeley Harrier

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An RAF Harrier GR3 on display at Bletchley Park, England
Type VTOL strike aircraft
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Hawker Siddeley
Maiden flight 28 December Template:Avyear (Harrier)
Primary user Royal Air Force
Produced 1967 - 197?
Number built 718 [1]
Developed from Hawker P.1127/Kestrel FGA.1
Variants AV-8A Harrier
BAE Sea Harrier

The Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.1/GR.3 is the first generation of the Harrier series, the first operational close-support and reconnaissance fighter aircraft with Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing (V/STOL) capabilities. The Harrier was the only truly successful V/STOL design of the many that arose in the 1960s. It was exported to Spain and the United states as the AV-8A Harrier.

In the 1970s, the Harrier was developed into the radar-equipped BAE Sea Harrier for the Royal Navy. The Harrier was also extensively redesigned as the BAE Harrier II and AV-8B Harrier II, which were built by British Aerospace and McDonnell Douglas.

Design and development


The Harrier's lineage began with the Hawker P.1127. Design began in 1957 by Sir Sydney Camm, Ralph Hooper of Hawker Aviation and Stanley Hooker (later Sir Stanley) of the Bristol Engine Company. Rather than using rotors or a direct jet thrust the P.1127 had an innovative vectored thrust turbofan engine and the first vertical take-off was on 21 October, 1960. Six prototypes were built in total, one of which was lost at an air display.

The immediate development of the P.1127 was into the Kestrel FGA.1, which appeared after Hawker Siddeley Aviation had been created. The Kestrel was strictly an evaluation aircraft, and only nine were produced, the first flying on March 7, 1964.

These equipped the Tripartite Evaluation Squadron formed at RAF West Raynham in Norfolk of 10 pilots from the RAF, USA and West Germany. One aircraft was lost but the remainder transferred to the US for evaluation by the Army, Air Force and Navy, under the designation XV-6A Kestrel.

An order for 60 production aircraft was received from the RAF in 1966, and the first pre-production Harriers, then known as the P.1127(RAF) were flying by mid-1967.

At the time of the development of the P.1127, Hawker had started on a design for a supersonic version, the Hawker P.1154. After this was cancelled in 1965, the RAF began looking at a simple upgrade of the Kestrel as the P.1127(RAF).

In mid-1966, the P.1127(RAF) was ordered by the RAF as the Harrier GR.1, with the first preproduction aircraft flying the following year.


The Harrier GR.1 was the first production model derived from the Kestrel, it first flew on December 28, 1967, and entered service with the RAF on April 1, 1969. Construction took place at factories in Kingston upon Thames in southwest London and at Dunsfold, Surrey. The latter adjoined an airfield used for flight testing; both factories have since closed.

The ski-jump technique for STOVL use by Harriers launched from Royal Navy aircraft carriers was tested at the Royal Navy's airfield at RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron), Somerset. Their flight decks were designed with an upward curve to the bow following the successful conclusion of those tests.

The Harrier GR.3 featured improved sensors (such as a laser tracker in the lengthened nose), countermeasures and a further upgraded Pegasus Mk 103 and was to be the ultimate development of the 1st generation Harrier. This model saw extended service in the Falklands War.

The Harrier was also a very manoeuverable and a potent air-to-air fighter, being able to out-manoeuvre any other fighter aircraft then in service.[citation needed] The air combat technique of vectoring in forward flight, or viffing, was formally developed by the USMC in the Harrier to outmaneuver a hostile aircraft or other inbound weapons.[2][3]

Controls and handling

Further information: Harrier Jump Jet#Controls and handling

Operational history

The first major combat experience for the Harrier in British service was during the Falklands War where both the BAE Sea Harrier FRS.1 and Harrier GR.3 were used. The Sea Harrier, developed from the GR.3, was important to the naval activities. Twenty Sea Harriers were operated from the carriers HMS Hermes and Invincible mainly for fleet air defence. Although they destroyed 21 Argentine aircraft in air combat (in part due to using the American-supplied latest variant of the Sidewinder missile and the Argentine aircraft operating at extreme range) they couldn't establish complete air superiority and prevent Argentine attacks during day or night nor stop the daily flights of C-130 Hercules transports to the islands.

Harrier GR.3s were operated by the RAF from Hermes, and provided close support to the ground forces and attacked Argentine positions. but were unable to destroy the Port Stanley runway. If most of the Sea Harriers had been lost, the GR.3s would have replaced them in air patrol duties. Four Harriers GR.3s were lost to ground fire, accidents, or mechanical failure.[4] The RAF Harriers would not see further combat, as the Hawker Siddeley airframes were replaced by the larger Harrier II developed jointly by McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace.


A Royal Air Force Harrier GR.3 aircraft parked on the flight line during Air Fete '84 at RAF Mildenhall.
Harrier GR.1 
The first production model derived from the Kestrel
Harrier GR.1A 
The GR.1A was an upgraded version of the GR.1, the main difference being the uprated Pegasus Mk 102 engine. Fifty-eight GR.1As entered RAF service, 17 GR.1As were produced and a further 41 GR.1s were upgraded.
Harrier GR.3

The Harrier GR.3 featured improved sensors (such as a laser tracker in the lengthened nose), countermeasures and a further upgraded Pegasus Mk 103 and was to be the ultimate development of the 1st generation Harrier. The RAF ordered 118 of the GR.1/GR.3 series Harrier.

Harrier T.2

Two-seat training version for the RAF.

Harrier T.2A

The Harrier T.2A was an upgraded version of the T.2. The T.2A was powered by a Rolls-Royce Pegasus Mk 102 turbofan engine.

Harrier T4

Two-seat training version for the Royal Air Force.

Harrier T4N

Two-seat training version for the Royal Navy.

Harrier Mk 52

Two-seat company demonstrator. One aircraft only.

AV-8A Harrier

Single-seat ground-attack, close air support, reconnaissance fighter aircraft; similar to the early GR.1 version, but with the engine of the GR.3. 113 aircraft were ordered for the US Marines. Company designation was the Harrier Mk 50.


Upgraded AV-8A aircraft for the US Marine Corps.

AV-8S Matador

Export version of the AV-8A Harrier for the Spanish Navy. Later sold to the Royal Thai Navy. Spanish Navy designation VA-1 Matador. Company designation Harrier Mk 53 for the first production batch, and Harrier Mk 55 for the second batch.

TAV-8A Harrier

Two-seater training version for the US Marine Corps. The TAV-8A Harrier was powered by a 21,500-lb Rolls-Royce Pegasus Mk 103 turbofan engine. Company designation Harrier Mk 54.

TAV-8S Matador

Export version of the TAV-8A Harrier for the Spanish Navy. Later sold to the Royal Thai Navy. Spanish Navy designation VAE-1 Matador. Company designation Harrier Mk 54.



Survivors / museum exhibits

Specifications (Harrier GR.1)

General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 45 ft 7 in (13.90 m)
  • Wingspan: 25 ft 3 in (7.70 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 4 in (3.45 m)
  • Wing area: 201 ft² (18.68 m²)
  • Empty weight: 12,190 lb (5,530 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 17,260 lb (7,830 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 25,350 lb (11,500 kg)
  • Powerplant:Rolls-Royce Pegasus 101 turbofan with four swivelling nozzles, 19,000 lbf (84.5 kN) Four vertical flight puffer jets use engine bleed air, mounted in the nose, wingtips, and tail, and provide up to 1,000 lbf (4 kN) of thrust.


  • Maximum speed: 735 mph (Mach 0.97) (1,185 km/h)
  • Range: 1200 mi (1900 km)
  • Combat radius: 260 mi (418 km) on strike mission without drop tanks (hi-lo-hi)
  • Service ceiling: 49,200 ft (15,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2 min 23 sec to 40,000 ft or initial climb (VTOL weight) 50,000ft/min (15,240 m/min[5])
  • Thrust/weight: 1.10



  1. British Aircraft Directory
  2. Nordeen, pp. 33-34.
  3. Spick, Mike; Bill Gunston (2000). The Great Book of Modern Warplanes. Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Company, 382-383. ISBN 0-7603-0893-4. 
  4. Harriers lost in the Falklands
  5. Modern Air Combat: The Aircraft, Tactics and Weapons Employed in Aerial Warfare Today, by Bill Gunston, Mike Spick (New York: Crescent Books, 1983) p. 84.
  • Norden, Lon O. Harrier II, Validating V/STOL. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2006. ISBN 1-59114-536-8.

External Links


Related Content

Related development

Comparable aircraft

See also

Template:Hawker Aircraft aircraft Template:Harrier variants Template:US STOL and VTOL aircraft

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It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Hawker Siddeley Harrier".