McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier: Aircraft profile
The Harrier today is one of the truly unique and most widely known of military aircraft. It is unique as the only fixed wing V/STOL aircraft in the free world.
It also is unusual in the international nature of its development, which brought the design from the first British P.1127 prototype to the AV-8B Harrier II of today.
When the Harrier II was first flown in the fall of 1981, 21 years had elapsed since the original Hawker P.1127 first hovered in untethered flight. This basic design, only one of many promising concepts of the time, has weathered its growing up period and reached maturity in the AV-8B.
The 1957 design for the P.1127 was based on a French engine concept, adopted and improved upon by the British. The project was funded by the British Bristol Engine Co. and by the U.S. Government through the Mutual Weapons Development Program.
With the basic configuration of the engine largely determined and with development work under way, Hawker Aircraft Ltd. engineers directed their attention to designing a V/STOL aircraft that would use the engine. Without government/military customer support, they produced a single-engine attack-reconnaissance design that was as simple a V/STOL aircraft as could be devised. Other than the engine's swivelling nozzles, the reaction control system was the only complication in the effort to provide V/STOL capability.
The initial P.1127 was rolled out in the summer of 1960, by which time RAF interest in the aircraft had finally resulted in funding by the British Government for the two prototypes. First hovers in the fall were made with a severely stripped airplane. This was due to the fact that the first Pegasus engines were cleared for flight at just over 11,000 pounds thrust.
With potential NATO and other foreign interest in the P.1127, four additional airplanes were ordered to continue development.
As the project proceeded into the early sixties international interest in V/STOL tactical aircraft led to an agreement to conduct a tripartite operation, with the United Kingdom, West Germany and the United States sharing equally in development and evaluation. Nine P.1127s were ordered and designated Kestrel F.G.A. 1s in the RAF name system. A number of major configuration changes were incorporated in it although the basic concept remained unchanged. Within the United States it was a tri-service venture (Army, Navy, Air Force) with the Army functioning as the lead service. However, the final interservice agreement later transferred responsibility for this category of aircraft to the Air Force.
Following completion of the operational evaluation in the United Kingdom, six of the Kestrels were shipped to the United States in 1966, designated XV-6As. Here they underwent national trials, including shipboard tests. Two subsequently served in a research role with NASA.
While the Kestrel operation trials were being completed and the six aircraft were headed for the United States, the RAF ordered an updated version, the P.1127 (RAF), subsequently given the designation Harrier GR 1. Retaining its basic concept, Hawker-Siddley extensively redesigned the P.1127 for production.
Before it entered RAF service, the U.S. Marine Corps evinced a major interest in the Harrier for attack missions, and procurement of Marine AV-8As was initiated. The Harrier entered service with the RAF and the U.S. Marines in the early seventies. It was followed in both services by a limited number of two-place trainer versions, designated TAV-8As for the Marines.
Both Hawker-Siddley in the United Kingdom and McDonnell Douglas Aircraft in the United States who had become the American associate contractor, could see ways to improve the Harrier. In 1973, a joint advanced Harrier program was undertaken but the costs of both airplane and Rolls-Royce engine development led to abandonment of the proposed AV-16A advanced Harrier.
Building on the technical accomplishments of the joint program, McDonnell evolved a revised design configuration, incorporating a composite structure wing, which promised most of the AV-16's capabilities without a new Pegasus development. Following full-scale wind-tunnel tests and flight and structural test confirmation with two YAV-8B prototypes, the AV-8B is now in full scale production as the Harrier II. The first AV-8B squadron stood up in 1985.
Upgrading of the AV-8A with some of the systems improvements of the AV-8B resulted in the AV-8C configuration. Two test aircraft were reconfigured for evaluation and a limited AV-8C conversion program was undertaken.
An ongoing remanufacture program for selected Harriers in the inventory will provide new engines and radar, a Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR), moving map and night vision goggles. These improvements will give the Harrier a day and night attack capability, and will extend the service life into the next century as well as greatly improving warfighting capability.
Source: US Navy
The McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II is a family of second-generation vertical/short takeoff and landing or V/STOL jet multirole aircraft of the late 20th century. British Aerospace rejoined the project in the early 1980s, and it has been managed by Boeing/BAE Systems since the 1990s.
Developed from the earlier Hawker Siddeley Harriers, it is primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, typically operated from small aircraft carriers and large amphibious assault ships. Versions are used by several NATO countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and the United States.
The aircraft is known as the AV-8B Harrier II in United States Marine Corps service and the Harrier GR7/GR9 in British service. Though it shares the designation letter-number with the earlier AV-8A/C Harrier, the AV-8B Harrier II was extensively redesigned by McDonnell Douglas. The AV-8A was a previous-generation Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.1A procured for the US Marine Corps. These models are commonly referred to as the "Harrier Jump Jet".
The Harrier II is notable as an example of US-UK cooperation and of Cold War defense achievements. Of note is the U.S aid funding early development of the Hawker P.1127 under the Mutual Weapons Development Program (MWDP), and the salvaging of what was left of the AV-16 Advanced Harrier Program by McDonnell Douglas, making the second-generation family possible.
McDonnell Douglas had restarted its own program which was nearing production status when British Aerospace (BAe) rejoined the program in the 1980s. They then jointly produced the aircraft. By the 1990s McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, and BAe was merged into BAE Systems who went on to manage the family into the early 21st century.
The AV-8B had its direct origins in a joint British-U.S. project (Hawker-Siddeley and McDonnell Douglas) for a much-improved Harrier aircraft, the AV-16. However cost over-runs in engine development on the part of Rolls-Royce and in the aircraft development caused the British to pull out of the program.
Interest remained in the U.S., so a less ambitious, though still expensive project was undertaken by McDonnell on their own catered to U.S. needs. Using knowledge gleaned from AV-16 development, though dropping some items such as further Pegasus development, the development work continued leading to the AV-8B for the U.S. Marine Corps. The aircraft was centered on the Marines' need for a light ground attack aircraft and focused on payload and range, instead of speed. In the early 1980s, the British restarted development of their own second generation Harrier based on the U.S. design which led eventually to the GR.5.
The first two YAV-8B prototypes were converted from existing AV-8A airframes.
Aircraft were built by McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace (later BAE Systems), the latter at their Kingston & Dunsfold facilities in Surrey, in the UK. The British factories were also home to the Hawker Hunter, and BAe Hawk T1.
The first AV-8B Harrier IIs produced were commonly known as the "Day Attack" variant, and are no longer in service. Most were upgraded to Night Attack Harrier or Harrier II Plus standards, with the remainder being withdrawn from service.
Fielded in 1991, the Night Attack Harrier incorporated a Navigation Forward Looking Infrared camera (NAVFLIR). The cockpit was also upgraded, including compatibility with night vision goggles. Concurrent with the new version of the aircraft was introduced a more powerful Rolls Royce Pegasus II engine. It was originally intended to be designated AV-8D.
The Harrier II Plus is very similar to the Night Attack variant, with the addition of an APG-65 radar in an extended nose, making it capable of operating advanced missiles such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM. The radars were removed from early F/A-18 Hornets which had been upgraded with the related APG-73. The Harrier II Plus is in service with the USMC, Spanish Navy, and Italian Navy.
The AV-8B cockpit was also used for the early trialling of DVI using a system developed by Smiths Industries.
The AV-8B Harrier II is used by the military forces of three nations. The United States Marine Corps has operated the AV-8B and TAV-8B since 1985. The Spanish Naval air wing (Arma Aerea De La Armada) operates the AV-8B and AV-8B+, as well as a leased TAV-8B. The Italian Navy air wing (Aviazione di Marina Militare) also uses the AV-8B+ and TAV-8B.
Two prototypes converted from existing AV-8A airframes.
AV-8B Harrier II
"Day Attack" variant; no longer in service. Most were upgraded to one of the following two variants, while the remainder were withdrawn from service.
AV-8B Harrier II Night Attack
Fielded in 1991; incorporates a Navigation Forward Looking Infrared camera (NAVFLIR). Upgraded cockpit, including compatibility with night vision goggles. More powerful Rolls Royce Pegasus 11 engine.
AV-8B Harrier II Plus
Similar to the Night Attack variant, with the addition of an APG-65 radar. It is used by the USMC, Spanish Navy, and Italian Navy.
TAV-8B Harrier II
Two-seat trainer version.
EAV-8B Matador II
Company designation for the Spanish Navy.
* Italian Navy
o Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati "The Wolves"
* Spanish Navy
o 09th Squadron > 17 planes
* United States Marine Corps
Specifications (AV-8B+ Harrier II Plus)
* Crew: 1 pilot
* Length: 46 ft 4 in (14.12 m)
* Wingspan: 30 ft 4 in (9.25 m)
* Height: 11 ft 8 in (3.55 m)
* Wing area: 243.4 ft² (22.61 m²)
* Airfoil: supercritical airfoil
* Empty weight: 13,968 lb (6,340 kg)
* Loaded weight: 22,950 lb (10,410 kg)
* Max takeoff weight:
o Rolling: 31,000 lb (14,100 kg)
o Vertical: 20,755 lb (9,415 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce F402-RR-408 (Mk 105) vectored-thrust turbofan engine, 23,500 lbf (105 kN)
* Maximum speed: .89 Mach (662 mph, 1,070 km/h) at sea level
* Range: 1,200 nm (1,400 mi, 2,200 km)
* Combat radius: 300 nmi (556 km)
* Ferry range: 1,800 nmi (3,300 km)
* Rate of climb: 14,700 ft/min (4,485 m/min)
* Wing loading: 94.29 lb/ft² (460.4 kg/m²)
* Guns: 1× GAU-12U "Equalizer" 25 mm (0.98 in) cannon (left pod) and 300 rounds of ammunition (right pod) (American/Spanish/Italian configuration)
* Hardpoints: 7 with a capacity of 13,200 lb (STOVL) of stores, including iron bombs, cluster bombs, napalm canisters, laser-guided bombs, AGM-65 Maverick or AGM-84 Harpoon missiles, a LITENING targeting pod, up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder or similar-sized infrared-guided missiles. Radar equipped AV-8B+ variants can carry up to four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. An upgrade program is currently fitting airframes with wiring and software to employ 1760 bus based weapons “smart weapons” (i.e.JDAM),
More photos: AV-8B Harrier II photo gallery
Related articles, videos, and resources
- F-4 Phantom II: Aircraft profile
- C-9 Skytrain / Nightingale: Aircraft profile
- F/A-18 Hornet: Aircraft profile
- Douglas A-4 Skyhawk: Aircraft profile
- Video: F-4 Phantom II in action, archival footage
- Video: F-4 Phantom II tribute
- Video: F-4 Phantom II in action
- Grumman A-6 Intruder: Aircraft profile
- Video: AV-8B Harrier short takeoff, vertical landing on ship, cockpit footage
- Video: AV-8B Harrier demonstration at 2008 Joint Services Open House
Click a location below to start hunting for airshows near you:
North America: Canada | Mexico | Alabama | Arizona | California | Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maryland | Mississippi | Missouri | New York | North Carolina | Puerto Rico | South Carolina | South Dakota | Texas | Virginia | Wisconsin
South America: Brazil