Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
AV-8 Harrier II
- See also Hawker Siddeley Harrier
The aircraft is known as the AV-8B Harrier II in USMC service and the GR7/GR9 in RAF service. The AV-8A was an unmodified Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.3 procured for the US Marine Corps. The AV-8B is an extensively redesigned aircraft with a new composite wing, new cockpit and avionics, and more powerful engine. The new wing enables higher take-off weights and more ordnance, although despite the more powerful engine the Harrier II is about 50 mph (80 km/h) slower than its predecessor. The AV-8B was put into service in January 1985 at a cost of US$21.6 million each.
The primary mission of the AV-8B in USMC service is to provide responsive close air support for ground forces. This single-piloted, advanced V/STOL aircraft can operate from short fields, forward sites, roads and surface ships providing minimum response time to targets. Recent AV-8B Plus (Night Attack Harrier II) have an expanded secondary air-to-air role.
Three AV-8B squadrons stationed about 40 miles (64 km) from the Kuwaiti border, were the most forward deployed tactical strike aircraft during Operation Desert Storm and operated from relatively unprepared sites. One AV-8B squadron and one six-aircraft detachment operated off the landing helicopter ship USS Nassau in the Persian Gulf. The average turnaround time during the ground war surge was 23 minutes. A total of 86 Marine Harriers flew 3,567 sorties against Iraqi targets in Kuwait and Iraq. Five Harriers were lost, four in combat. Following the war, Marine Corps analysis showed that the placement of the engine nozzles that allow for the Harrier's Vertical Take-Off/Landing made the aircraft far more vulnerable to infrared surface-to-air missile fire than other aircraft.
In the Iraq campaign of 2003, the Harrier II saw extensive usage by both the USMC and RAF. USMC Harriers were based on two USMC amphibious assault ships, USS Bataan (LHD-5) and USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). Each carried 24 Harriers, about four times their normal complement of fixed wing aircraft, and tried out the long dormant secondary purpose of the LHDs and LHAs, that of a small aircraft carrier, or sea control ship. RAF Harriers were shore based in Kuwait. Two detachments from RAF Cottesmore were sent to the region, with one known to have been based at the al Jaber airbase in Kuwait, and the other at an undisclosed location. A total of 23 RAF Harriers took part in the campaign.
The current AV-8B Remanufacture Program converts older AV-8B day attack aircraft to the most recent production radar/night attack configuration. This radar-equipped version of the AV-8B, called the AV-8B+, became operational in the summer of 1994. The AV-8B+ uses the same APG-65 radar system as the F/A-18 Hornet and is able to carry AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, giving the aircraft a considerable increase in anti-aircraft capabilities. However, these missiles are most likely to be deployed as a means of self-defense or airbase defense instead of air superiority, because despite its agility, the Harrier is subsonic and therefore slower than most fighters. As mentioned before, the thrust-vectoring engine nozzles leave a large infrared signature for enemy missiles to lock on to, which puts the Harrier at a huge disadvantage in close-quarters dogfights.
- AV-8A Harrier
- AV-8B Harrier II
- AV-8B+ - AV-8B with radar allowing firing of radar guided air-to-air missiles
- EAV-8B - Spanish Navy version
- Harrier GR5 - First RAF version of Harrier II
- Harrier GR7 - Avionics upgrade to GR5
- Harrier GR7A - GR7 with more powerful engine
- Harrier GR9 - Avionics upgrade to GR7
- Harrier GR9A - Both avionics upgrade and more powerful engine fitted
Units using the AV-8 Harrier II
- No. 1 Squadron
- No. 3 Squadron
- No. 4 Squadron
- No. 20 Squadron
- RAF SAOEU Strike Attack Operational Evaluation Unit
Specifications (AV-8 Harrier II)
- Crew: 1
- Length: 46 ft 4 in (14.1 m)
- Wingspan: 30 ft 4 in (9.2 m)
- Height: 11 ft 9 in (3.5 m)
- Wing area: 243.4 ft² (22.61 m²)
- Empty: 12,500 lb (5,700 kg)
- Loaded: lb ( kg)
- Maximum takeoff: 29,750 lb (13,400 kg)
- Powerplant: 1x Rolls-Royce F402 -RR-408, 23,800 lbf (106 kN) thrust
- Maximum speed: 629 mph (1000 km/h) 547 knots
- Range: 685 miles (1,000 km)
- Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
- Rate of climb: 14,715 ft/min (4,485 m/min)
- Wing loading: lb/ft² (kg/m²)
- Detachable fuselage strakes can be replaced with pods for one GAU-12U 'Equalizer' 25 mm cannon (left pod) and 300 rounds of ammunition (right pod) 7 pylons for a maximum of 13,200 lb (STOL) of stores, including: Iron bombs, cluster bombs, napalm cannisters, laser-guided bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder or similar-sized infrared-guided missiles. AV-8B+ variants can carry up to four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles.
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