The Harrier Jump Jet is one of the most iconic of all the planes in the RAF fleet second only to the mighty Spitfire. The ability to perform vertical take-off and landings (VTOL) made it an indispensible part of British military operations for more than 40 years. With models designed for use on land and sea the Harriers took part in combat operations all over the world. Most notably the Harrier played a major role in the Falklands conflict, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
There were many proposed designs for jets with similar capabilities to the Harrier in the 60’s however none of them made it much further than the drawing board. The problems of making a jet that could take-off vertically or with an extremely short runway were thought to be insurmountable.
However British engineering overcame the problems of creating an effective attack jet that could perform a variety of roles and the Harrier was born. Between 1969 and 2003 more than 800 Harriers were produced in variants including the BAE Sea Harrier, AV-8B Harrier and the BAE Harrier II. The last Harrier to be made entered service in 2003 which then brought an end to Harrier production in the UK.
The Harrier has been the subject of a great deal of controversy in recent years. The decision to decommission the Harrier and take it out of service in 2010 was met with a great deal of criticism especially given that more than £1 billion had been spent on upgrading and maintaining them over the previous decade. The decision to then sell the remaining 74 Harriers to the US Marines for a paltry sum of £34 million was met with anger from many quarters.
The Marines use and maintain a fleet of Harriers for use on amphibious assault craft and it is thought the Harriers purchased from the UK will be used primarily as spares for their existing fleet of aircraft. The loss of the Harrier means that the UK for the first time in more than 60 years now has no aircraft carrier capability.
While the loss of the Harrier is undoubtedly a blow to the UK it will be replaced by the Tornado and the Typhoon when it enters service in the near future. While a private jet charter or private jet hire aircraft may not be able to match the Harrier’s VTOL capability they will get you to your destination in comfort and style.