British Royal Air Force Retires Harrier Jump Jet
December 23, 2010 — After 41 years the British Royal Air Force (RAF) has retired the Harrier Jump Jet. Regarded as one of Britain’s greatest technological achievements, the fighter that could takeoff vertically, fly backward, and pirouette in the air was a key factor in the Falklands War in 1982. Originally produced by Hawker Siddeley, four variants were produced, including the BAE Harrier II and the McDonnell Douglass AV-8B Harrier II, which was made for the United State Marine Corps.
Earlier this month the RAF launched 16 Harriers from RAF Cottesmore for a planned flyby of seven nearby bases to mark the end of the aircraft’s operational status. Weather curtailed the mission but 2,000 people showed to see the aerial display. In November, the Harrier made its last flight from an aircraft carrier, which was also the last Harrier flight for the HMS Ark Royal, which is to be retired next year along with Britain’s other carrier, the HMS Illustrious in 2014.
Facing financial pressures, the Ministry of Defence cut the Harrier program and the carriers, which will leave the Navy without a ship-borne aerial strike force until a new carrier is available in 2020. In addition to Britain and the U.S., the Harrier is used by both Italy and Spain.
Deadly in combat, the Harrier was a loud but big attraction at air shows, including AirVenture, where the Harrier often closed the daily air show with its ear-splitting aerial ballet. During AirVenture 2010, Art Nalls, a former U.S. Marine Corps Harrier test pilot, brought the first civilian-owned version of the aircraft to AirVenture and performed several shows.
See incredible photos of the RAF’s Harrier retirement ceremony here.