At 400 knots the view of Topsham is brief but exciting. The flight was as bumpy as the Back To The Future ride at Universal studios in Florida.
The cool video in this post shows a low-level flight (with original audio) in a dual-seat Royal Navy Harrier, the iconic aircraft that is now no longer in service. According to the video description, that was provided by the person who had the luck to enjoy a ride in the iconic Sea Harrier “at 400 knots the view of Topsham is brief but exciting. The flight was as bumpy as the Back To The Future ride at Universal studios in Florida. One pilot described the Harrier at low-level as like a jaguar without any suspension. Raw power from the Pegasus engine…a flight that sticks in the memory. A real treat.”
According to BAE Systems, in 1963, the Hawker Siddeley P1127 had landed on HMS Ark Royal and it was some 15 years later that the specifically designed ‘Navalised-Harrier’ prototype finally took to the air over Dunsfold on 20th August 1978.
The British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS1 entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980, during an era in which most naval and land-based air superiority fighters were large and supersonic. The principal role of the subsonic Sea Harrier was to provide air defence for naval aircraft carriers and surface ships around the world.
The aircraft saw service distinction during the Falklands Conflict of 1982 as well as during both of the Gulf Wars and the Balkans conflict. On all occasions, the Sea Harriers mainly operated from aircraft carriers positioned within the conflict zones.
The usage in the Falklands was probably the most high profile and important success recorded by the aircraft ‘in theatre’ when it was the only fixed-wing fighter available to protect the British Task Force. Flying off of HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes, the Sea Harriers defeated 20 enemy aircraft during the encounter with just one being lost to enemy ground fire.
Despite a vigorous marketing campaign by British Aerospace, the Sea Harrier only saw customer sales to India despite enormous interest from the military authorities of both Argentina and Australia.
In 1993, an updated version was developed for the Royal Navy (Sea Harrier FA2) featuring a more powerful engine, a much improved weapon systems and enhanced air-to-air capabilities. Manufacturing of the Sea Harrier ceased in 1998 with the last aircraft retiring from Royal Naval service in 2006.
Photo credit: Stu Carr via Flickr