Between 2004 and 2009 Harriers of Joint Force Harrier (JFH), which comprises the RAF’s 1(F) and IV(AC) squadrons and the Royal Navy’s 800 Naval Air squadron (NAS), were deployed to Afghanistan to support the troops on the ground, fighting a resurgent Taliban and other militant forces. As well as 16 pilots, around 125 engineers and technicians and all the squadron’s Ops personnel were in Afghanistan. Maintenance crews worked hard, undertaking 12-hour shifts day and night for ten days at a time. During its time in Afghanistan the Harrier GR.7/7A became a highly prized asset and as such a dramatic series of upgrades were implemented improve its ability to detect and destroy Taliban forces in cavernous mountain ranges of Helmand. This resulted in the superlative Harrier GR.9/9A.
Kandahar Harrier Crash
On 14th May 2009 two Harriers were returning from a sortie including Harrier GR.9A ZG478. The wingman landed first due to low fuel but received a hostile missile alert and released flares. ZG478’s turn onto finals was too short and 6,500ft higher than normal. Throughout the approach the rate of descent was too high and ‘Hover Stop’ was selected in an attempt to correct this.
At 180ft full power was selected but the tail struck the ground 30ft from the threshold. The outriggers and main undercarriage collapsed as did the nose wheel when the aircraft pitched forward. The under wing stores (bombs, rockets, recce pod, targeting pod and drop tanks) caught fire as it slid along the runway for 4,000ft. During the slide the pilot turned the aircraft away from a formation of four aircraft waiting to take off then ejected when it came to a stand. The fire spread to engulf the whole aircraft