BAE Sea Harrier FRS.1 VTOL Carrier Fighter Bomber
The British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS.I first flew on August 20, 1978 and entered service later that year. The Sea Harrier is derived from the original VTOL Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR1. In the early 1970s the Royal Navy realized that they were not going to be allowed to continue operating large aircraft carriers for very much longer. They began testing the idea of using the Harrier onboard a small cruiser sized carrier. This idea lead to the Invincible class light carriers and the specifications for the Sea Harrier. It is designed as a subsonic fighter, strike and reconnaissance plane. While the Sea Harrier was largely based on the original Harrier there were several improvements made including a raised cockpit with a bubble canopy, an extended forward fuselage to accommodate the Ferranti Blue Fox radar and corrosion resistant parts for operations at sea. The Sea Harrier’s most famous combat action was during the Falklands War in 1982 when they flew from the aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes. They were the only fixed wing aircraft that the United Kingdom could deploy to the area and they were tasked with the primary air defense role with a secondary ground attack role. During the war Sea Harriers shot down 20 Argentine aircraft in air to air combat with no air to air losses accounting for 28% of the Argentine aircraft losses. Two were also lost to ground fire and four to accidents. In addition to their superior combat training, much of the credit for the British success goes to new tactics developed for the Sea Harrier, especially the VIFF (Vectored in Forward Flight) maneuvers which used the nozzles that were normally used for vertical flight for braking and other directional maneuvers. The sea harrier also fought in both Gulf Wars and the various Balkans conflicts. Although the Sea Harrier was continuously upgraded, budget cuts forced the early retirement of the Sea Harrier in 2006. The Sea Harrier was briefly replaced by the Harrier GR.7 & GR.9 but those aircraft have also been retired early as have 2 of the 3 Invincible class carriers. The remaining Invincible class carrier now only operates helicopters and is scheduled to be scrapped in 2014 leaving the Royal Navy without an aircraft carrier for the first time since WWI. The Indian navy continues to operate 15 Sea Harriers from its carrier. The Sea Harrier FRS.I was armed with two 30 mm ADEN cannon pods under the fuselage and hard points capable of carrying 8,000 lbs. rocket pods, AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs, AIM-120 AMRAAM AAMs, R550 Magic missiles ALARM missiles, Martel missiles and Sea Eagle ASMs along with standard NATO conventional bombs and the WE.177 10 kiloton nuclear weapon. This model shows a Sea Harrier FRS.I flown by Lt. Commander T.J.H Gedge commanding offices of No. 800 Naval Air Squadron flying off of HMS Yeovilton and HMS Invincible in 1980. Also see the AV-8B Harrier II.