Sea Harrier FA.2s and Harrier T.8 at RNAS Culdrose Air Day 2016

A collection of images of British Aerospace Harriers conducting ground runs during the RNAS Culdrose Air Day 2016

All photographs kindly contributed by Dave Taskis (please take time to visit his blog by clicking here).



For more images of British military equipment and museums please visit the Galleries section or follow Defence of the Realm on Instagram

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

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An Update and an Announcement

Hawker Siddeley Harrier P.1127 XP984 Brooklands (3)

I was recently contacted via Facebook by Dave Cotton regarding P.1127 XP984 at Brooklands Museum in Surrey. He said;

I am leading the team restoring XP984 and the covers are only there until we have made the engine doors and have replaced the wrong wing with the right one!  The Aircraft is going to be stripped of the paint which should not be on her and left with the anodised finish you can see on XP831 in the Science Museum. Just had all the bits belonging to Cosford taken back and a P1127 wing just about fitted to it! We have started to make a new Airbrake/Undercarriage door to replace the missing one.

I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we look forward to seeing this fascinating aircraft restored to its former glory.

 


 

Also, this week marks a significant milestone for Defence of the Realm. On Wednesday the site passed the magic figure of 250,000 hits. I never thought it would ever get to this point and I want to once again thank each and every one of you who take the time to visit the site regularly. Your support has been my inspiration to press on and strive for bigger and better and forge links with fellow bloggers and writers many of whose work you can view by looking at the recommended list on the right hand side of the page.

I will be attending Fortress Wales 2016 on Sunday so hopefully I will have plenty more pictures and videos to share over the coming week.

Thank you again and I wish you all the best.

-Tony Wilkins

Hawker Siddeley P.1127 XP984 at Brooklands Museum

A collection of pictures of Hawker Siddeley P.1127 XP984 on display at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey.

All photos were taken on April 5th 2016
Photos: Tony Wilkins


The sixth P.1127 technology demonstrator, XP984 essentially served as the prototype for the Kestrel FGA.1 which was evaluated by Britain, West Germany and the United States (as the XV-6A Kestrel) under the Tri-partite Evaluation Squadron (TES). Built in 1964 the aircraft introduced a new swept wing as opposed to the earlier design. Power came from the Rolls-Royce Pegasus 5 vectoring turbofan engine which produced 15,000lbs of dry thrust.

The aircraft was damaged in an accident at RAE Bedford on October 31st 1975 when the pilot lost directional control in a strong cross wind and bailed out. The aircraft slammed in to the ground from a low altitude and was declared a write-off.

For more images of British military equipment and museums please visit the Galleries section or follow Defence of the Realm on Instagram

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

NEWS: One-third of RAF combat aircraft unserviceable

Panavia Tornado

According to the Daily Express newspaper a third of the Royal Air Force’s fast-jet force has been rendered unserviceable pending repairs as a result of near continuous combat operations in Afghanistan, Lybia and Iraq. According to the newspaper MoD figures reveal that 36 of the RAF’s 91 Eurofighter Typhoons and 39 of the 96 Panavia Tornado GR.4s have been taken off frontline duties for major repair work. With the Harrier force retired prematurely and operations against Islamic State in Iraq set to rise the worry is the situation could worsen.

The revelations came after Labour MP Madeline Moon raised the question in parliament. They responded with a rather vague statement saying;

Aircraft availability rates change considerably over very short periods of time.

Loosely translated what the RAF are trying to say is that the fact of the matter is intensive operations will take a toll on aircraft serviceability rates. These are complex machines being made to work in quite austere and punishing conditions and it is inevitable that some of them will develop some kind of malfunction that needs repair. This is not a situation unique to the RAF but to all military flying forces. The concern is that unlike the US Air Force or indeed the Royal Saudi Air Force the RAF simply doesn’t have the reserve forces to make up for the shortfall after savage cuts by the coalition government in 2010. The loss of the Harrier fleet is now being felt by the RAF who are carrying out a dangerous job with the usual professionalism and commitment that the British public and their government seem to take for granted these days which has led to this situation in the first place.

BAe Sea Harrier FA2

Sea Harrier FA2

  • Crew: 1
  • Role: Multi-role Naval Combat Aircraft
  • Length: 46 ft 6 in (14.2 m)
  • Wingspan: 25 ft 3 in (7.6 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 2 in (3.71 m)
  • Empty weight: 14,052 lb (6,374 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 26,200 lb (11,900 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Pegasus mk106 vectored thrust turbofan, 21,750 lbs (95.64 kN)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.9 (735 mph)
  • Ferry range: 1,740 miles
  • Service ceiling: 51,000 ft
  • Armament:
    2-4× AIM-9L Sidewinders
    2-4x AIM-120B AMRAAM
    2× 30 mm ADEN guns
    8,000lbs of ordinance on external stores

The success of the Sea Harrier FRS.1 in the Falklands War surprised many including the Admiralty who expected a 50% casualty rate among the small force. Nevertheless the conflict highlighted several weaknesses that although were already known before the war were not considered important enough to address for both financial and political reasons not least of which was the expectation that the Sea Harrier was to have a short life in the Royal Navy before they and the carrier HMS Invincible were to be sold to Australia. Indeed, some viewed the Sea Harrier project as merely a demonstration of British technology in order to gain lucrative sub-contracts to other aerospace companies particularly in the US. After 1982 however the aircraft was viewed as an important part of any future British planning and so they were retained.

While the aircraft faired well against the Argentinians with their ageing fighters confidence in its ability to protect the fleet was shaken by the arrival of new long range Soviet fighters such as the MiG-31 “Foxhound” and the Su-27 “Flanker-A”. This fear was exacerbated by the news that the Soviet Navy was about to deploy its first true aircraft carriers with their extremely capable Su-33 “Flanker-Ds”. The Sea Harrier needed an update to remain credible in the face of these new threats and just like in 1982 it was going to have to have a more sophisticated weapon system to make up for the performance shortfall.

The old Blue Fox radar in the FRS.1 was therefore replaced by a far more sophisticated Ferranti Blue Vixen radar which at the time of its introduction in 1988 was claimed to be one of the most capable pulse doppler radars in the world which gave the aircraft its long sought after look down/shoot down capability. As well as being a formidable air-to-air radar it could also perform ground mapping and surface target detection and tracking functions making the Sea Harrier FA2 a true multi-role combat aircraft. Fitting Blue Vixen necessitated a redesign of the radome replacing the rocket-like shape of the FRS.1 with a more bulbous look which was deceptively shorter in length. With the Soviet Navy’s Su-33s sporting a powerful beyond visual range (BVR) capability in the R-27 medium range air-to-air missile it was decided to arm the Sea Harrier FA2 with the AIM-120B AMRAAM to even the odds and in doing so the Sea Harrier FA2 became the first fighter outside of the United States to field this weapon.

Other improvements included uprated Rolls-Royce Pegasus Mk106 turbofan engines and a comprehensive electronic countermeasures (ECM) suite. Imporvements that were planned but ultimately shelved included the fitting of second generation Harrier GR.5/7 style leading edge root extensions (LERXes) that would have improved roll rate and wingtip pylons for an additional pair of AIM-9L Sidewinders.

The Sea Harrier FA2 entered service in 1993 by which time the threat of the now-Russian carrier program had greatly diminished. Nevertheless the Sea Harrier FA2 performed sterling work enforcing no-fly zones over Iraq, Bosnia (during which time a single aircraft was shot down by a SAM) and Kosovo. More importantly the aircraft helped develop Joint Force Harrier which meant that RAF Harriers could operate off the carriers in the strike role freeing up the Sea Harriers for the fighter role building on hard earned experience in the Falklands. Near the end of its career an automatic VTOL landing system was trialled on a Sea Harrier FA2 and this has gone on to form the basis of a similar system for the F-35B Lightning II.

The Sea Harrier FA2 was retired from service in 2006.


BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1

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  • Crew: 1
  • Role: Multi-role Naval Combat Aircraft
  • Length: 47 ft 7 in (14.5 m)
  • Wingspan: 25 ft 3 in (7.6 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 2 in (3.71 m)
  • Empty weight: 14,052 lb (6,374 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 26,200 lb (11,900 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Pegasus mk.104 vectored thrust turbofan, 21,500 lbs (95.64 kN)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.9 (737 mph)
  • Ferry range: 1,740 miles
  • Service ceiling: 51,000 ft
  • Armament:
    2-4× AIM-9 Sidewinders
    2× 30 mm ADEN guns
    8,000lbs of ordinance on external stores

In 1979, HMS Ark Royal (R09) was formally decommissioned bringing an end to conventional fixed wing flight in the Royal Navy. The newest ships coming in to service were designed to operate helicopters but it was found they could also operate Harrier V/STOL aircraft. Handed a lifeline, the Fleet Air Arm placed an order for 34 Sea Harriers; a modified version of the RAF’s Harrier GR.3 incorporating radar and air-to-air missiles for the air defence role. Thus one of the most iconic aircraft to have ever served in the Fleet Air Arm was born.

In the aftermath of the Sea Harrier’s superlative performance as a traditional fighter in the Falklands War it has long been forgotten that this was not the role envisioned for the type in the 1970s. The Admiralty knew that they weren’t fielding an aircraft on a par with the rest of NATO and the Soviet air forces (at least on paper) and instead planned to use it to simply protect the fleet from lumbering maritime patrol and bomber aircraft such as the Il-38 “May” and the Tu-95 “Bear” where it wouldn’t have to ‘mix it’ with fighters. Even after the Falklands this remained the primary mission of the aircraft with a secondary attack and reconnaissance role.

Power for the Sea Harrier came from a Rolls-Royce Pegasus thrust vectoring turbofan engine which was also what gave the aircraft its vertical take-off capability by directing thrust downwards around the aircraft’s centre of gravity. The Sea Harrier had a level speed of 735mph with a service ceiling of 51,000ft which are impressive when you consider that the Rolls-Royce Pegasus is a non-afterburning engine. Although range figures vary depending on what load is carried the Sea Harrier is quoted at having a combat range of around 600 miles with external fuel tanks.

The Sea Harrier was fitted with the Blue Fox air intercept radar which had both air-to-air and air-to-surface modes. It was hardly a modern radar set even in 1978 and lacked many of the modes that could be found on the RAF’s frontline fighters such as the Phantom FGR.2. It was good enough for the original role envisioned however and it was expected to be under ground or ship control up until the intercept point. It could track around twelve targets at a time (some sources claim more but this is disputed) but had very little look down/shoot down capability. It was far superior to the Sapfir-23 radar which is what the export MiG-21 and MiG-23s were fitted with and at one time China was looking at fitting it to their version of the MiG-21, the J-7, for sale to Pakistan. The Sea Harrier also had an excellent radar warning receiver, the Sky Guardian, which was almost the standard set for British aircraft in the 80s.

The Sea Harrier FRS.1 was equipped with the excellent AIM-9L Sidewinder which introduced all-aspect detection capability meaning a pilot didn’t have to get on an enemy plane’s tail to acquire the target. The missile had a powerful fragmentation warhead which meant that even a proximity hit could do potentially fatal damage to a single-engined aircraft. In the fighter role the AIM-9 was backed up by two ventral 30 mm guns whose mounting was designed to help give the aircraft increased stability. The aircraft had a wide range of unguided weapons available to it from rockets to bombs and the maximum warload was around 8,000lbs spread out between a total of five pylons (excluding the two dedicated 30mm cannons). A seldom carried weapon that was nonetheless available to the Sea Harrier was the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile which was a potent open ocean weapon and was capable of disabling all but the largest warship.

In the Falklands War the Sea Harrier dominated the skies over the South Atlantic. The Argentinian pilots in the 1960s-era Dassault Mirage III fighters were unable to match its sophisticated weapon system. After the war the aircraft returned to its original role of protecting the fleet against Soviet air power however towards the late 1980s the introduction of the Sukhoi Su-27K (Su-33) “Flanker” naval fighter demanded the aircraft be upgraded and this produced the Sea Harrier F/A-2.

See Also