Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Harrier / AV-8

Harrier / AV-8B

BAE Systems Harrier

Sea Harrier FA.2

First Flight:                          1988, September 19
                                                Rolls-Royce Pegasus 106 turbofan
                                                9765kg / 21,500lb thrust
                                                AIM-120 AAM (4)
                                                AIM-120 (2)
                                                AIM-9 Sidewinders
                                                30mm / 1.18in Aden cannon (2)
                                                2270kg / 5000lb bombs, rockets, anti-ship missiles
                Length:                 14.17m / 46ft 6in
                Height:                   3.71m / 12ft 2in
                Wingspan:             7.7m / 25ft 3in
                Wing area:             18.7m2 / 201ft2
                Empty:                  6374kg / 14,052lb
                Max take-off:      11,880kg / 26,200lb
                Max Speed:        1185kph / 736mph @ sea level
                                             1328kph / 825mph @ high altitude
                Cruise Speed:    850kph / 528mph @ 10,975m / 36,000ft
                Ceiling:                 15,555m / 51,000ft
                Range:                  1300km / 800 miles
                Climb:                   15,240m / 50,000ft per min @ VTOL weight
                Take-off run:          305m / 1000ft @ max takeoff weight, no ‘ski jump’

AAM      -              air-to-air missile
V/STOL -              vertical / short take-off and landing

Vertical landing possible without heavy ordinance

AV-8B Harrier II Plus

                                                Rolls-Royce F402-RR-408A (Pegasus 11-61)
                                                Vectored thrust turbofan engine
                                                10,600kg / 23,800lb thrust
                                                6003kg / 13,235lb Max ordinance
                                                4 pylons under each wing
                                                                AIM-9 Sidewinders
                                                                AIM-120 AMRAAM
                                                                Mk 7 cluster bomb dispensers
                                                                Mk 82/83 bombs
                                                                LAU-10/68/69 rocket pods
                                                                AGM-65 Maverick
                                                                AGM-84 Harpoon
                                                                CBU-55/72 fuel-air explosive
                                                                Mk 77 fire bombs
                                                Centerline hardpoint
                                                                ALQ-167 ECM pod
                                                Two fuselage packs
                                                                Five-barrelled 25mm GAU-12 cannon (port)
                                                                300 rounds (starboard)
                Max speed:        1065kph / 662mph @ sea level
                Climb:                   4485m / 14,715ft per min @ sea level

Original 1960 prototype prior to Harrier

President Dwight Eisenhower’s defense policy during the Cold War was based heavily on nuclear deterrence because the World War II general believed that any direct conflict with the forces of the Soviet Union would quickly escalate to a strategic nuclear exchange making conventional armed forces irrelevant.  It also saved U.S. taxpayers a lot of money if the Pentagon wasn’t caught up in a needless conventional arms race with their Soviet counterparts.  Eisenhower’s successor, John Kennedy, was chilled by the thought that his only military option would be all-out thermonuclear war.  He believed this all-or-nothing posture lacked credibility and he instituted measures that called for a graduated response to hostilities.  This meant NATO must now be able to defend itself against the conventional forces of the  Warsaw Pact in the event of European war.  The men, armor and planes required for a credible conventional defense  would mean writing new government checks for a lot of money.  It also meant reconsidering NATO’s tactical strategy.

Spain one of purchasers of Harriers

At the outbreak of hostilities the air forces of the two, large opposing armies would quickly rise to the air and attack, among other targets, the large air bases of their enemy.  NATO military planners knew these attacks on their air arm could potentially devastate their defensive ability.  It would be ideal if aircraft didn’t require long runways.  They could be easily dispersed and hard to find.  This would require a jet that could take-off like a helicopter or, at the very least, become airborne after a running start using a short piece of land.  The technology barely existed in 1960 but the British were committed to developing it.

Aerial Refueling

The first operational VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) combat jet, the Harrier GR.1, entered service with the RAF in 1969.  Although it was capable of vertical lift the aircraft actually required a runway of nearly a couple hundred meters if it was to carry a worthwhile payload of military ordinance.  Under wartime conditions a short piece of farm road would do, so there was little practical penalty.  The RAF Harrier quickly proved itself to be highly maneuverable, with impressive acceleration and, because of its vectoring nozzles, could decelerate rapidly and make very sharp turns – giving it real advantages as a dogfighter.  It caught the attention of both the Royal Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.  The aircraft’s short runway requirement meant the fleet could have an air arm without the expense of maintaining large carriers.  This would also benefit the Marines as they could provide close air support for opposed amphibious landings from small decked assault ships nearby.  Once the landing had been secured the Harriers, known as the AV-8A by the Marines, could operate from relatively primitive areas close to the front lines.  This gave them short response time and the ability to provide more frequent missions.  Here was an aircraft truly suited the Marine Corps’ mission.  It proved to be more capable than its own A-4 Skyhawk.

Vector nozzles give Harrier VTOL capability

It was during the Falklands War in 1982 when the world took note of this revolutionary aircraft and its contribution towards England’s victory over Argentina.  In this instance it was the Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier version that made news by shooting down 23 opposing aircraft while losing none of its own to aerial combat.  Among the aircraft lost were eleven Dassault Mirages and eight A-4 Skyhawks.  Such aircraft should have made for more competitive dogfights but while the Argentinian pilots were courageous they didn’t have near the training or the effective tactics of the British flyers.  It also helped that the Sea Harriers were armed with AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles which proved to be far more reliable than their earlier predecessors.

Underside view reveals hard points and vector nozzles

The up-graded Harrier II Plus and the U.S. Marine’s AV-8B became much improved close-air support, ground-attack aircraft with improved radar systems and far more power that enabled it to carry a far greater weapons load.  It is relied upon now by ground troops in this role and will continue to be until it is replaced by the new Joint Strike Force aircraft, the F-35, that is expected to become operational for the Marines in 2015.

US Marine AV-8B during sea operations

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