British Aerospace Sea Harrier Airplane Videos and Airplane Pictures

British Aerospace Sea Harrier Video - Picture

Aircraft Picture - A Sea Harrier FA2 of 801 NAS in flight at the Royal International Air Tattoo.

British Aerospace Sea Harrier Aircraft Information

British Aerospace Sea Harrier

Sea Harrier

Aircraft Picture - A Sea Harrier FA2 of 801 NAS in flight at the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Picture - A Sea Harrier FA2 of 801 NAS in flight at the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Role: V/STOL strike fighter
National origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: Hawker Siddeley British Aerospace
Introduced: 20 August 1978 (FRS1) 2 April 1993 (FA2)
Retired: March 2006 (Royal Navy)
Status: Active service with Indian Navy
Primary users: Royal Navy (historical) Indian Navy
Unit cost: US$18 million in 1991
Developed from: Hawker Siddeley Harrier

The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval VTOL/STOVL jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft, a development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. It first entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS1 and became informally known as the "Shar". Unusual in an era when most naval and land-based air superiority fighters are larger and supersonic, the subsonic Sea Harrier is tasked primarily for air defence when operating from Royal Navy aircraft carriers.

The Sea Harrier served in the Falklands War, both of the Gulf Wars, and the Balkans conflicts; on all occasions it mainly operated from aircraft carriers positioned within the conflict zone. Its usage in the Falklands War was its most high profile and important success, where it was the only fixed-wing fighter available to protect the British Task Force. The Sea Harriers shot down 20 enemy aircraft during the conflict with one loss to enemy ground fire. They were also used to launch ground attacks in the same manner as the Harriers operated by the Royal Air Force.

The Sea Harrier was marketed for sales abroad, but by 1983 India was the only operator other than Britain after sales to Argentina and Australia were unsuccessful. A second, updated version for the Royal Navy was made in 1993 as the Sea Harrier FA2, improving its air to air abilities and weapons compatibilities, along with a more powerful engine; this version continued manufacture until 1998. The aircraft was withdrawn early from Royal Navy service in March 2006 and replaced in the short term by the Harrier GR9, although the intended long term replacement is Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II. The Sea Harrier is in active use in the Indian Navy, although it will eventually be replaced by the Mikoyan MiG-29K.


In the post-war era the Royal Navy began contracting in parallel with the breakup of the British Empire overseas and the emergence of the Commonwealth; reducing the importance and coverage feeding the need for a larger navy. By 1960 the last battleship, HMS Vanguard, was retired from the Navy, having been in service for less than fifteen years. Perhaps the biggest sign of the new trend towards naval austerity came in 1966, when the planned CVA-01 class of large aircraft carriers destined for the Royal Navy were cancelled; apparently ending the Navy's involvement in fixed-wing carrier aviation as World War II era carriers were slowly retired one by one. During this time requirements within the Royal Navy began to form for a Vertical and/or Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) carrier-based interceptor to replace the de Havilland Sea Vixen. Afterward the first V/STOL tests on a ship began with a Hawker Siddeley P.1127 landing on HMS Ark Royal in 1963.

A second concept for the future of naval aviation emerged in the early 1970s as the first of a new class of "through deck cruisers" was planned. These were very carefully and politically designated as cruisers to deliberately avoid the term "aircraft carrier", in order to increase the chances of funding from a hostile political climate against expensive capital ships, they were considerably smaller than the previously sought CVA-01. These ships were ordered as the Invincible class in 1973, and are now popularly recognised as aircraft carriers. Almost immediately upon their construction, a ski-jump was added to the end of the 170-metre deck, enabling the carriers to effectively operate a small number of V/STOL jets. The Royal Air Force's Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR1s had entered service in April 1969. A navalised variant of the Harrier was developed by Hawker Siddeley to serve on the upcoming ships, this became the Sea Harrier. In 1975 the Royal Navy ordered 24 Sea Harrier FRS.1 (standing for 'Fighter, Reconnaissance, Strike') aircraft, the first of which entered service in 1978. During this time Hawker Siddeley became part of British Aerospace through a merger in 1977. By the time the prototype Sea Harrier was flown at Dunsfold on 20 August 1978 the order had been increased to 34. The Sea Harrier was declared operational in 1981 onboard the first Invincible class ship HMS Invincible, and further aircraft joined the aging HMS Hermes aircraft carrier later that year.

Following their key role in the Falklands War, several lessons were learned from the aircraft's performance which led to approval for an upgrade of the fleet to FRS.2 (later known as FA2) standard to be given in 1984. The first flight of the prototype took place on September 1988 and a contract was signed for 29 upgraded aircraft in December that year. In 1990 the Navy ordered 18 new-build FA2s, at a unit cost of around £12 million, four further upgraded aircraft were ordered in 1994. The first aircraft was delivered on 2 April 1993.


Aircraft Picture - Sea Harrier FA2 ZA195 (upgrade) vector thrust nozzle - distinguishing feature of the jump jet

Picture - Sea Harrier FA2 ZA195 (upgrade) vector thrust nozzle - distinguishing feature of the jump jet

The Sea Harrier is a subsonic aircraft designed to fill strike, reconnaissance and fighter roles. It features a single Pegasus turbofan engine with two intakes and four vectorable nozzles. It has two landing gear on the fuselage and two outrigger landing gear on the wings. The Sea Harrier is equipped with four wing and three fuselage pylons for carrying weapons and external fuel tanks. Use of the ski jump allowed the aircraft to take off with a heavier loadout than otherwise possible.

The Sea Harrier was largely based on the Harrier GR3, but was modified to have a raised cockpit with a "bubble" canopy for greater visibility, and an extended forward fuselage to accommodate the Ferranti Blue Fox radar. Parts were changed to use corrosion resistant alloys or coatings were added to protect against the marine environment. After the Falklands War, the Sea Harrier was fitted with the new anti-ship Sea Eagle missile.

The Sea Harrier FA2 featured the Blue Vixen radar, which was described as one of the most advanced pulse doppler radar systems in the world; the Blue Fox radar was seen be some critics as having comparatively low performance for what was available at the time of procurement. The Blue Vixen formed the basis for development of the Eurofighter Typhoon's CAPTOR radar. The Sea Harrier FA2 also carried the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, the first UK aircraft to be provided with this capability. An upgraded model of the Pegasus engine, the Pegasus Mk 106, was used in the Sea Harrier FA2; in response to the threat of radar-based anti aircraft weapons electronic countermeasures were added. Other improvements included an increase to the air-to-air weapons load, look-down radar, increased range, and improved cockpit displays.

The cockpit in the Sea Harrier includes a conventional centre stick arrangement and left-hand throttle. In addition to normal flight controls, the Harrier has a lever for controlling the direction of the four vectorable nozzles. The nozzles point rearward with the lever in the forward position for horizontal flight. With the lever back, the nozzles point downward for vertical takeoff or landing. The usefulness of the vertical landing capability of the Sea Harrier was demonstrated in an unintented incident on 6 June 1983, when Sub Lieutenant Ian Watson lost contact with the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and had to land on the foredeck of the Spanish cargo ship Alraigo.

In 2005, although already timetabled to be retired, a Sea Harrier was modified with an 'Autoland' system to allow the fighter to perform a safe vertical landing without any pilot interaction. Despite the pitching of a ship posing a natural problem, the system was designed to be aware of such data, and successfully performed a landing at sea in May 2005.

Operational history

Entry into service

The first three Sea Harriers were a development batch and were used for clearance trials. The first production aircraft was delivered to RNAS Yeovilton in 1979 to form an Intensive Flying Trials Unit (also known as 700A Naval Air Squadron). In March 1980 the Intensive Flying Trials Unit became 899 Naval Air Squadron and would act as the landborne headquarters unit for the type. The first operational squadron 800 Naval Air Squadron was also formed in March 1980 initially to operate from HMS Invincible before it transferred to HMS Hermes. In January 1981 a second operation squadron 801 Naval Air Squadron was formed to operate from HMS Invincible.

Falklands War

Aircraft Picture - Sea Harrier at RNAS Yeovilton. The glossy metallic blue paint scheme seen here was altered to a duller one en route.

Picture - Sea Harrier at RNAS Yeovilton. The glossy metallic blue paint scheme seen here was altered to a duller one en route.

Sea Harriers took part in the Falklands War of 1982, flying from the aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes. The Sea Harriers performed the primary air defence role with a secondary role of ground attack. The RAF Harrier GR3 provided the main ground attack force, a total of 28 Sea Harriers and 14 Harrier GR3s were deployed in the theatre. The Sea Harrier squadrons shot down 20 Argentine aircraft in air-to-air combat with no air-to-air losses, although two Sea Harriers were lost to ground fire and four to accidents. Out of the total Argentine air losses, 28% were shot down by Harriers.

A number of factors contributed to the failure of the Argentinian fighters to shoot down a Sea Harrier. Although the Mirage III and Dagger jets were considerably faster, the Sea Harrier was considerably more manoeuvrable. Tactics such as such as the 'Viff' (Vectored in Forward Flight) using the nozzles normally used for vertical flight for braking and other directions proved decisive in dogfights. Moreover, the Harrier employed the latest AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles and the Blue Fox radar. The British pilots had superior air-combat training, one manifestation of which was that they thought they noticed Argentinian pilots occasionally releasing weapons outside of their operating parameters. This is now thought to have been Mirages releasing external fuel tanks rather than weapons, and turning away from conflict with the Sea Harrier. This later reduced their capability to fight an effective campaign against the Sea Harrier due to reduced range and lack of external fuel tanks.

Aircraft Picture - 800 NAS Sea Harrier FRS1 from HMS Illustrious in low-visibility paint scheme.

Picture - 800 NAS Sea Harrier FRS1 from HMS Illustrious in low-visibility paint scheme.

British aircraft received fighter control from warships in San Carlos Water, although its effectiveness was limited by their being stationed close to the islands, which severely limited the effectiveness of their radar. The differences in tactics and training between 800 Squadron and 801 Squadron has been a point of criticism, suggesting that the losses of several ships were preventable had Sea Harriers from HMS Hermes been used more effectively.

Both sides' aircraft were operating in adverse conditions. Argentine aircraft were forced to operate from the mainland because airfields on the Falklands were only suited for propellor-driven transports. In addition, fears partly aroused by the bombing of Port Stanley airport by a British Vulcan bomber added to the Argentinians' decision to operate them from afar. As most Argentine aircraft lacked in-flight refuelling capability, they were forced to operate at the limit of their range. The Sea Harriers also had limited fuel reserves due to the tactical decision to station the British carriers out of Exocet missile range and the dispersal of the fleet. The result was that an Argentine aircraft could only allow five minutes over the islands to search and attack an objective, while a Sea Harrier could stay near to 30 minutes waiting in the Argentine approach corridors and provide Combat Air Patrol coverage for up to an hour.

The Sea Harriers were outnumbered by the available Argentinian aircraft, and were on occasion decoyed away by the activities of the Escuadrx³n Fénix or civilian jet aircraft used by the Argentine Air Force. They had to operate without a fleet early warning system such as AWACS that would have been available to a full NATO fleet in which the Royal Navy had expected to operate, which was a significant weakness in the operational environment. However, it is now known that Chile did provide early radar warning to the Task Force. The result was that the Sea Harriers could not establish complete air superiority and prevent Argentine attacks during day or night, nor could they completely stop the daily C-130 Hercules transports' night flights to the islands. A combined six Sea Harriers were lost to either enemy fire, accidents or mechanical failure during the war. The total aggregate loss rate for both the Harriers and Sea Harriers on strike operations was 2.3%.

Operations in the 1990s

The Sea Harrier participated in the Gulf War in 1991, attacking Iraqi military ground targets and escorting other aircraft in and out of the zone. The hot climate of the region hindered the effectiveness and availability of the aircraft. Afterwards Sea Harriers maintained no fly zones established over southern Iraq.

Aircraft Picture - British Aerospace Sea Harrier FA2 of the Royal Navy on the flight deck of the HMS Invincible

Picture - British Aerospace Sea Harrier FA2 of the Royal Navy on the flight deck of the HMS Invincible

The Sea Harrier saw action in war again when was deployed by the United Kingdom in the 1991-1995 conflict in Bosnia, part of Yugoslav wars. It launched raids on Serb forces and provided airsupport for the international taskforce units conducting operations Deny Flight and Deliberate Force against Army of Republika Srpska. On 16 April 1994 a Sea Harrier of the 801 Naval Air Squadron operating from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was brought down by a SAM fired by Army of Republika Srpska while attempting to bomb two Serbian tanks. The pilot, Lieutenant Nick Richardson ejected and landed in the territory controlled by friendly Bosnian Muslims.

It was used again in 1999 NATO campaign against Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in Operation Allied Force, Sea Harriers operating from HMS Invincible patrolled the airspace frequently to keep Yugoslavian MiGs on the ground. They were also deployed to Sierra Leone onboard HMS Illustrious in 2000, which was itself part of a Royal Navy convoy to supply and reinforce British intervention forces in the region.

Royal Navy retirement

Aircraft Picture - A Sea Harrier FA2 on display at the National Maritime Museum in May 2006

Picture - A Sea Harrier FA2 on display at the National Maritime Museum in May 2006

The Sea Harrier was withdrawn from service in 2006 and the last remaining aircraft from 801 Naval Air Squadron were decommissioned on 29 March 2006. The plans for retirement were announced in 2002 by the Ministry of Defence. The aircraft's replacement, the F-35 Lightning II, was originally due in 2012, the MoD arguing that significant expenditure would be required to upgrade the fleet for only six years of service; By March 2010 the F-35's introduction had been pushed back to 2016 at the earliest, with the price doubled. The decision to retire the Sea Harrier early has been criticised by some officers within the military.

Both versions of Harrier experienced reduced engine performance (Pegasus Mk 106 in FA2 - Mk 105 in GR7) in the higher ambient temperatures of the Middle East, which restricted the weight of payload that the Harrier could return to the carrier in 'vertical' recoveries. This was due to the safety factors associated with aircraft "land-on" weights. The natural option - to install higher-rated Pegasus engines - would not be as straightforward as the Harrier GR7 upgrade and would likely be an expensive and slow process. Furthermore, the Sea Harriers were subject to a generally more hostile environment than land-based Harriers, with corrosive salt spray a particular problem. A number of aircraft were retained by the School of Flight Deck Operations at RNAS Culdrose, in theory these could be regenerated.

The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm will continue to share the other component of Joint Force Harrier, the Harrier GR7 and the upgraded Harrier GR9 with the RAF, with the two front-line squadrons, 800 NAS re-commissioned in 6 April and 801 NAS are expected to reform in 2007 both using the GR9 by 2007. The projected purchase of around 150 F-35s will be split between the two services and they will operate from the Royal Navy's Future Carrier (CVF).

Indian Navy

Aircraft Picture - Indian Navy's Sea Harriers fly along side U.S. Navy's F/A-18F Super Hornet during Malabar 2007.

Picture - Indian Navy's Sea Harriers fly along side U.S. Navy's F/A-18F Super Hornet during Malabar 2007.

India purchased 30 Sea Harriers in 1983, using 25 of these for operational flying and the remaining to train pilots. A further ten Sea Harriers were purchased in November 1985. Sea Harriers in Indian service operated from the aircraft carriers INS Vikrant (ex-HMS Hercules) and INS Viraat (ex-HMS Hermes). There have been a significant number of accidents involving the Sea Harrier; this accident rate has caused more than half the fleet to be lost with only 11 fighters remaining in service. Following a crash in August 2009, all Sea Harriers were temporarily grounded for inspection. Since the beginning of operational service in the Indian Navy, seven pilots have died in 17 crashes involving the Sea Harrier, usually during routine sorties.

The Indian Navy is in the process of upgrading up to fifteen Sea Harriers in collaboration with Israel by installing the Elta EL/M-2032 radar and the Rafael 'Derby' medium range air to air missile. This will enable the Sea Harrier to remain in Indian service until beyond 2012, and also see limited service off the new carriers it will acquire by that time frame. Although India plans to ultimately supplement and replace the Sea Harrier with Russian MiG-29K carrier fighters, the Indian Navy expressed interest in acquiring up to eight of the Royal Navy's retired Sea Harrier FA2s in order to maintain their operational Sea Harrier fleet, which consists of 13 Pegasus 104-powered Sea Harrier FRS51s. The deal excluded ongoing support from both BAE Systems and Rolls Royce. The sale would not have transferred the Sea Harrier FA2's Blue Vixen radar, the radar warning receiver or AMRAAM capability. Certain US software would also have been deleted from the aircraft prior to shipment. By 13 October 2006 it had been reported that the deal had not materialised due to the cost of re-equipping the airframes.


Aircraft Picture - A Sea Harrier FRS 1 on HMS Invincible

Picture - A Sea Harrier FRS 1 on HMS Invincible

Sea Harrier FRS1
57 FRS1s were delivered between 1978 and 1988; most survivors converted to Sea Harrier FA2 specifications from 1988.

Harrier T4N
The Harrier T4N is a two-seat naval version of the Harrier T2, used by the Royal Navy for land-based pilot conversion training towards the Sea Harrier FRS1.

Sea Harrier Mk51
Single-seat fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft made for the Indian Navy, similar to the British FRS1. Unlike the FRS1 Sea Harrier, it is fitted with Matra R550 Magic air-to-air missiles.

Harrier T60
Export version of the T4N two-seat training version for the Indian Navy.

Sea Harrier FA2
Upgrade of FRS1 fleet in 1988, featuring the Blue Vixen Pulse-Doppler radar and the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile.

Aircraft Picture - Sea Harrier FRS51. of the Indian Navy taking off from INS Viraat

Picture - Sea Harrier FRS51. of the Indian Navy taking off from INS Viraat

Harrier T8
Seven Harrier T4s two-seat trainers updated with Sea Harrier FA2 instrumentation.



Indian Navy
Indian Naval Air Squadron 300 'White Tigers'

Former operators

United Kingdom

Fleet Air Arm
800 Naval Air Squadron - disbanded 2006
801 Naval Air Squadron - disbanded 2006
809 Naval Air Squadron - disbanded 1982
899 Naval Air Squadron - disbanded 2006


Aircraft Picture - Sea Harrier FA2 ZE694 at the Midland Air Museum

Picture - Sea Harrier FA2 ZE694 at the Midland Air Museum

Sea Harrier FA2 ZE694, Midland Air Museum, Coventry, England.
Sea Harrier FA2 serial number XZ439, Hawker-Siddeley build number 912002 Nalls Aviation St Mary's County, Maryland, USA.
A single Sea Harrier is privately owned and flying. The Sea Harrier FA2 was purchased for $1.5M from the RN in 2006 by Art Nalls who spent the next two years restoring it to flying condition. In December 2007 it suffered a hard landing while undergoing testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River and damage had to be repaired. The aircraft made its first public appearance at an air show in Culpeper, Virginia in October 2008.
Two Sea Harriers, Sea Harrier FRS1 XZ493/001/N and Sea Harrier FA2 (XZ499) are on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, England, UK.
A Sea Harrier is on display at a gate to RNAS Yeovilton.

Specifications (Sea Harrier FA2)

Data from Bull, Donald Spick

General characteristics

Crew: 1
Length: 46 ft 6 in (14.2 m)
Wingspan: 25 ft 3 in (7.6 m)
Height: 12 ft 2 in (3.71 m)
Wing area: 201.1 ft² (18.68 m²)
Empty weight: 14,052 lb (6,374 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 26,200 lb (11,900 kg)
Powerplant: 1x— Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan, 21,500 lbf (95.64 kN)


Maximum speed: 635 knots (735 mph, 1,182 km/h)
Combat radius: 540 nmi (620 mi, 1,000 km)
Ferry range: 1,740 nmi (2,000 mi, 3,600 km)
Service ceiling: 51,000 ft (16,000 m)
Rate of climb: 50,000 ft/min (250 m/s)


Guns: 2x— 30 mm (1.18 in) ADEN cannon pods under the fuselage, with 130 rounds each
Hardpoints: 4x— under-wing pylon stations, and 1 fuselage pylon on centerline plus 2 attach points for gun pods with a total capability of 8,000 lb (3,630 kg) of payload.
Rockets: 4x— Matra rocket pods with 18 SNEB 68 mm rockets each
Missiles: **Air-to-air missiles:

AIM-9 Sidewinder
R550 Magic (Sea Harrier FRS51)
Air-to-surface missile:
ALARM Anti-radiation missile (ARM)
Martel missile ARM
Anti-ship missiles:
Sea Eagle
Bombs: A variety of unguided iron bombs (including 3 kg and 14 kg practice bombs) or WE.177 nuclear bomb (until 1992 on RN Sea Harriers)
reconnaissance pods or
2x— auxiliary drop tanks for ferry flight or extended range/loitering time


Blue Vixen radar

Notable appearances in media

The Harrier's unique characteristics have led to it being featured a number of films and video games.

Harrier Jump Jet, an overview of the Harrier family
Harrier Jump Jet family losses
Portal:British aircraft since World War II

Related development

Hawker Siddeley Harrier
AV-8B Harrier II
BAE Harrier II

Comparable aircraft

Boeing X-32
F-35 Lightning II
Yakovlev Yak-38


Bull, Stephen (2004). Encyclopedia of military technology and innovation. Greenwood Publishing. ISBN 1-573-56557-1.
Grove, Eric J (1987). Vanguard to Trident; British Naval Policy since World War II. The Bodley Head. ISBN 0-370-31021-7.
Gunston, Bill; Mike Spick (1983). Modern Air Combat: The Aircraft, Tactics and Weapons Employed in Aerial Warfare Today. New York: Crescent Books. ISBN 0-51741-265-9.
Hunter, Jamie (2005). Sea harrier: the last all-British fighter. Midland. ISBN 1-8578-0207-1.
Jenkins, Dennis R (1998). Boeing/BAe Harrier. Minnesota: Specialty Press. ISBN 1-58007-014-0.
Markman, Steve; Bill Holder (2000). "MAC-DAC/BAe AV-8 Harrier Vectored Thrust VTOL". Straight Up: A History of Vertical Flight. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-1204-9.
Moore, Captain John E. (1981). Warships of the Royal Navy. Jane's Publishing. ISBN 0-7106-0105-0.
Nordeen, Lon O. (2006). Harrier II: validating V/STOL. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-591-14536-8.
Spick, Mike; Bill Gunston (2000). The Great Book of Modern Warplanes. MBI Publishing. ISBN 0-7603-0893-4.
Ward, Commander 'Sharkey' (2003). Sea Harrier over the Falklands: A Maverick at War. Orion Publishing. ISBN 978-0-3043-5542-6.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982-1985). Orbis Publishing. 1985.

British Aerospace Sea Harrier Pictures

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