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back to article Britain's Harrier jump-jets reprieved to fly and fight again

Blighty's famous force of Harrier jump-jets, controversially disposed of during last year's defence review along with the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers, have been reprieved: the radical vectored-thrust jets, believed by many to have been the best strike planes in Britain's arsenal, will fly (and almost certainly, fight) again. …

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Anonymous Coward

Tad unfair.

"Every time a Tornado gets airborne, it passes through a point of no return on the runway after which, if there's a problem, there is no room to brake to a halt and the crew must eject and let the plane wreck itself"

That's a little unfair on the Tornado, almost every conventional jet aircraft, including the one that takes you on holiday, reaches a point of no-return, and the 747 doesn't have ejector seats!

It's simply a case of how much runway does the plane require to reach take off speed and then stop again. Most runways just aren't long enough for both.

Having said all that, I certainly won't defend the MOD's decision to scrap the Harrier and leave us with no Naval based air operations. You can can already see the effect that has had from the sabre rattling coming from Argentina. They wouldn't have dare do that again if the Harriers were still airborne.

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Mushroom

Tish!

The Falklands is not defenceless.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_the_Falkland_Islands

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They've been moaning for years, it has nothing to do with the carriers. After the war we built a semi-decent RAF base on the islands and this should serve well enough to defend them from a new attack, which is never going to happen.

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He didn't say it was

The issue is that the Argentinians know exactly where the airfield is on the Falkland Islands and in the event of a large scale invasion 4 Eurofighters and accompanying garrison may not be sufficient to stop it, and we have no means to bring other aircraft to bear. We couldn't even land troops without the air support which we cannot now provide.

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It might be a long trip but we could still deploy Typhoons to the Falklands and use our air to air refuellers to keep them airborne. We should in theory be able to deploy a Type 45 destroyer and maintain air superiority that way (the Argentinians wouldn't be launching their fast jets if they were being missile locked a mile after take off).

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Facepalm

To the UK government...

<-- see icon

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Anonymous Coward

Or maybe a "cash entering back pocket" icon. Would be interesting to know if a sale to the Americans meant that someone close to the government makes a few bucks that they otherwise wouldn't have made.

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Bronze badge

All this tells us is that the US marines wanted a source of cheap spares. It is not of itself a comment on the scrapping of the harriers by the MOD. That really is an opnion piece who's author is clutching at straws to try to prove his point.

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Cheap?

"The mothballed fleet of 74 Harriers, plus the UK's inventory of spare parts, is being bought up lock, stock and barrel by the US Marines."

We will be buying them back again at vastly inflated prices - standard practice for short-sighted short-term policies.

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@Elmer Phud

Or maybe we now have an opportunity to manufacture and sell more spare parts at a profit? Given that these planes were only recently mothballed, I can't imagine we have got rid of the tooling and manufacturing expertise needed to do this quite yet?

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Facepalm

Knowing BAE Systems...

... Yes, they probably have gotten rid of the tooling and sold it for scrap.

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FAIL

Why would they *need* to buy parts anytime soon? The Marines just got an entire boot full of spares, including airframes, which will see them in service for years and years - You surely don't expect BAE to keep tooling around for production lines which will sit idle whilst the Marines churn through the decade or more of spares they now have on hand, do you?

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FAIL

Poor...

More misleading, pro-US, Pro-RN, Anti UK, Anti-RAF rubbish from the former Naval officer. When will the Reg defence desk hire someone who can write accurate reports?

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Anonymous Coward

By accurate do you mean a post that agrees with and does not deviate from your viewpoint?

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Well...

Why don't you enlighten us poor, benighted civvies who are paying for this stuff where the inaccuracies are?

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FAIL

Err

How can he be anti RAF and anti RN when if he had his way the author seemingly would have these aircraft flying with said organisations?

Given their capabilities; and the fact we now need to rely upon the French of all people for carrier capability perhaps it's not the register that's anti RAF and RN; but the current government.

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Big Brother

Brain Washing in evidence

Whilst, in my opinion, Lewis is very good for a defence correspondant, there are times when evidence of the RN intake course brain washing do appear.

There are a number of items in the article, that whilst true, and have been put out of context, and hence do not represent a balance apprasial.

For example the take off conditions apply to all fixed wing operations, from cessna to C-5 Galaxy. The problems become more pronounced at altitude and tempretature, especially in dry cliemts due to changes in air density.

Air Density is also an adverse factor in helo and VTOL ops as well.

Poor air density basically means your aircraft has to go faster and/or carry less in order to generate the required lift (i.e. lift greater than weight)

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I began reading this piece and agreeing with the author - the Yanks seem to have spotted an opportunity to extend the useful life of an aircraft by quite some margin - at our expense!

Forcing myself to look further than Lewis' traditional Light Blue/Dark Blue rant I found myself asking the question "Will the US Marines even bother to order off the initial production run of F-35s?"...

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Trollface

nope

"Forcing myself to look further than Lewis' traditional Light Blue/Dark Blue rant I found myself asking the question "Will the US Marines even bother to order off the initial production run of F-35s?"..."

No - they'll probably get obama to get cameron to buy the intial, very expensive, run so they can buy them cheaper in the 2020's...

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No need to

"Will the US Marines even bother to order off the initial production run of F-35s?"..."

They'll not need to, now - They've got what they need, and if they need higher-performance, there's always the USN to call upon. Second-, maybe even third-generation, F35s; Most likely used aircraft from USN stocks.

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Don't know if the US will sucker Britain, but they got Harper in Canada. Harper never met a military expenditure he didn't love, and his purchase of F-35's will cost Canada for decades to come.

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Pirate

Sure, but only a handful for testing purposes

instead of a heftier order for actual use.

Now if we can just get you guys to buy the initial run of F35s.....

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Damn...

I hoped I could pick one up second hand on the cheap...

I do approve of this, it may not be the fastest or most powerful machine, but it fills many different niches pretty well - pretty much (in my, very amateur, opinion) a swiss army knife among military jets.

And besides, it's nearly unique - something British that's pretty darn good - better than the competition.

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Megaphone

F**in F***ity F*** F***!

That is all

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Which ones...

Lots of detail, yet no where could I see whether this sale relates solely to the old RN Sea Harriers, RAF GR7/9s or some combination of the two.

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74 Harriers

Must be the lot surely?

And there goes my chance of having one on the lawn. :-(

If I were the US marines I would be sitting very smugly indeed thank you. We go to the effort of developing and making these, and the yanks get the benefits.

I wrote to my MP on the subject at the time, not that it did any good.

ttfn

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Paris Hilton

Which part of "lock, stock and barrel" made you think it's about a conoisseur's selection?

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It'll just be the GR.7/9s. The Sea Harriers were retired much longer ago. In addition the Sea Harrier was was a first generation Harrier while the USMC operates second generation Harrier II models. I expect there's far less commonality of parts between the Sea Harriers and the USMC's AV-8Bs than there is between the AV-8B and the GR.9.

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Happy

What are the contract terms?

Given the effeciency of central stores, I expect in 10 years time, they will find enough Harrier parts to build at least ONE whole aircraft.

If truthful, we are likely to say, "here are all the bits we could find"., when we hand them over to USMC.

makes it interesting on whether we will be in breach of contract for that

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Coat

Difference

As we non-flyers at Wittering used to say:

How do you tell the difference between an RN and an RAF Harrier?

The RAF one still whines when the engine's shut down.

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Happy

The marines would never sit smugly.

They will of course give you a very loud Hooo-yaaaah! as they thank their lucky stars that for a change their second hand equipment is first rate quality.

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Anonymous Coward

runway

"point of no return on the runway"

This is not a problem with the aircraft per se, it applies to any aircraft making a takeoff from a short runway (which is predicated in a good measure by ambient conditions as actual runway length), and is a fact of life in all fixed wing aviation, regardless of aircraft type.

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Stop

Missing The Point (of no return)

The point here is that the runway IS short but we are forced to operate an aircraft that really requires a longer one at that altitude to take off safely, without endangering the airframe in the case of a late take-off abort.

We USED to have one designed specifically to take off on short runways, so ideal to operate from that strip in at least the close air support role...

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And of course the sea harriers normally took off at sea level (well, slightly above it) - pretty much a given.

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FAIL

Missing other bits

"We USED to have one designed specifically to take off on short runways, so ideal to operate from that strip in at least the close air support role.."

The harrier, as designed, in the CAS role was suppose to operate forward with the troops, we can't secure forward operating bases, due to lack of relevant troops, and frequently local topography.

The harrier goes slower, so it eventually turns up.

It carries a fraction of the payload, thus the totality of what can be delivered before crawling back to base, is less than any other aircraft we except a Hawk or Tucanno.

The harrier due to limited ordance capacity, therefore can not carry the range of muntion that a larger aircraft can, hence reducing the options available to the troops on the ground.

The harrier has one crew, the tornado has 2 crew, this means the guy on the ground gets to talk to somebody who only has to be concerned with hiting the right target, not overloaded with that and keeping his complex jet in the air, and not in the mountains.

That said the Harrier has it's place in a well rounded air capability, if the government chose to spend the money to maintain that capabiity.

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Not Really

Yes, Tornado can do Mach 2, but not for long, it would soon be out of fuel, it would be cruising slightly faster than Harrier (Mach 1 territory)

In terms of Libya the Harriers would have been there hours before a Tornado shows up, plus they can be based nearer the action more easily anyway, so that argument doesn't hold any water,

So what it can bomb one/two less houses on one sortie (it usually actually means they drop slightly less ordinance on the same target), but it's higher availablity counters this, you are also forgetting that the Typhoon is due the same capability as the Tornado soon and can carry more and is faster than the Tornado.

So I would have kept the unique abilities of the Harrier, it would have done fine in current situations and let Typhoon take on some strike responsibilities as it becomes available.

As it is we now have two platforms that in terms of strike, do exactly the same things - clever!

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Bronze badge
Windows

Beancounters in charge of defence?

Makes sense, as we're talking about Britain, I suppose....

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Facepalm

yeah but...

...where were they when the goverment(s) ran up almost a trillion quid in debt?

Beancounter = incompetent muppets with a tenious grasp of the real world, if you ask me...

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Facepalm

Beancounters wreck the world, one bean at a time, but Air Forces destroy (friendly) bags of beans at a time. The only common enemy is the Air Force., and that applies on both sides of the pond.

Since Great Britain is in effect a giant Aircraft Carrier, I don't understand why the RAF just doesn't get folded into the Royal Navy. (other than Politics and Air Force plays that better than Army and Navy everytime...) Unless there is a European war again, the RAF will be on the sidelines while the US, French, and Italian navies pick up the slack.

The US Air Force is just as bad, and stealing funds from Army and Navy, when the Army and Navy are first responders, and the Air Force has to fly halfway around the world to get anywhere. In the US's case, the Air Force needs folded BACK into the Army (which is who they actually work for) to stop the budgetary madness.

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FAIL

Re: operating air power via other arms.

"Since Great Britain is in effect a giant Aircraft Carrier, I don't understand why the RAF just doesn't get folded into the Royal Navy. "

Given the history of how the sea captain led navy consider air power, the decision in 1918 to create the RAF is why you don't speak german.

If the RN had been in charge we would of have entered WW2 with old out of date biplanes (what was on our carriers at the time?)

Given modern naval warfare, destroyers are targets, carriers are combat vessels, the RN chose to loose the carriers, and keep their career promotion prospects, by keeping more hulls in the form of useless destroyers and frigates, rather than a fewer number of useful carrier hulls.

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Headmaster

beg pardon

but there were no 'old, out of date' biplanes aboard RN carriers in 1939-45. There were _new_ biplanes (Fairey Swordfish, and later, Fairey Albacore) torpedo bombers; the RN retired the last of its Gloster Sea Gladiator fighters just before the war. The RAF flew Gladiators in combat (Battle of Britain, and air defence of Malta; okay, Faith, Hope and Charity were Sea Gladiators, but were flown by RAF crews and were the sole air defence of Malta for a considerable time...) (here's a pic of Faith <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ZZZ_003915_E_Gladiator.jpg>) but the RN had all metal monoplane fighters (Blackburn Roc, Fairey Fulmar, so not very good fighters...) The Swordfish was speced in the mid 1930s, and actually performed well. It was the single number one best anti-dreadnought weapon in the ETO, killing several Italian battleships and damaging others at various points, mostly in Taranto harbour, and getting three hits on BISMARCK... two of which were inconsequential, and one of which jammed the rudders and doomed the ship. The primary anti-aircraft guns on BISMARCK, the twin 105-mm quick-firing guns, were controlled by the very best electro-mechanical computers then available (Hoo-rah! IT content!) which made them very accurate... except that someone on shore had figured that modern aircraft flew at 150 knots or better, and the fire-control computers couldn't track anything slower. The max speed of a Swordfish was 120 knots (if someone got out and pushed) so they literally flew too slowly to be shot at by the 105s. The hand-held 37-mm and 20-mm guns were much less accurate.

When the Swordfish stopped being a front-line torpedo-bomber (partially due to the shortage of German or Italian major surface combatants to torpedo...) they did excellent anti-submarine work, again thanks to their very low speed. The Albacore, which was supposed to replace the Swordfish, had an enclosed cockpit and was faster... and much less liked, and was phased out in favor of... the Swordfish. (The less said about the Barracuda, the better.) Swordfish were still flying anti-submarine and air-sea-rescue operations at the end of the war. (Just not doing it where there was any chance of encountering hostile aircraft...)

Please don't disparage some of the best British aircraft of the 1939-45 war.

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Anonymous Coward

Barracuda

The Barracuda could be effective, as in an attack on the Tirpitz in April '44.

And there must be a good reason they built two and half thousand of them and kept them on charge until the mid-50s

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er no..

I think you mean the crappy Fairey Fulmar, and the crappier still Blackburn Skua.

Barracuda oth did sterling work (with RR Griffon especially so) with torps & rockets/bombs, Seafires filling the fighter gap until the the Sea Furies pop up at the end of the war.

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LDS
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Swordfish? It was just luck.

The Swordfish was able to attack German and Italian ships only because of the total lack of air protection of those ships. If German or Italy had something like Japan had, Swordfish would have been destroyed on their ships decks, and not one would had dropped a torpedo against a target. Look at what happened to the torpedo bombers at Midway, while approaching heavily protected ships without figther protection.

While Japan was able to sink two british battle ship using planes alone, the Swordfish was just able to damage the Bismark in daylight combat. Taranto was a better strike, but it required the night and surprise to keep planes safe enough. Probably it was the right plane to conduct such an attack. That's why it was also a good anti-submarine plane. It has to fly lolw and slow, and submarines don't have CAPs. Anyway, Italian "maiali" was able to inflict more or less the same damage to British battleships with even less resources, just I would not call them great weapons, just the lucky ones in a surprise attack.

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Out of date tech and the consequences

The swordfish was designed with 1920's tech and delivered in the mid-30's, in a period of technical change in combat aircraft where last year's design was a coffin with wings.

The achievments of the RN using the swordfish say more about the igenuity of certain commanders, the skill and courage of the crews, the operating environment, and some serious amounts of luck. (such as with the bismark)

To see what we could have had on carriers, one can look at the USN's Dauntless, japan's Nakajima B5N.

the following is the citation for Lieutenant Commander Esmonde's VC

""On 12 February 1942 in the Straits of Dover, off England, Lieutenant Commander Esmonde led his squadron of six Swordfish to the attack of two German battle cruisers the Scharnhorst and the cruiser Prinz Eugen, which were entering the Straits strongly escorted by surface craft. Detached from their escorting fighters (just 10 in number) by enemy fighters, all the aircraft of the squadron were damaged, but even after Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde's plane sustained a direct hit he still continued the run-in towards his target until it burst into flames and crashed into the sea. The squadron went on to launch a gallant attack, but none of the six aircraft returned".

this kind tells you what the swordfish's operational chances where when the other side where prepared, and the sheer guts it took to go anyway.

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Silver badge

On the other hand...

Mothballed aircraft sold to the US for money. To me this costs... the US not us.

Whilst harriers would undoubtably be of use in Afghanistan, or in Libya, this kind of ignores the point that we have no real business being in either of those countries. I mean, everyone knows Afghanistan has a history of being a place where it is not possible to win a war, and the real reasons we are there are not to do with the defence of the UK, but are political and economic (i.e. the US tells us to / it would be a good place to drill for oil / build oil pipelines if they weren't going to get blown up).

I'm sure I'll attract lots of flames for saying it, so go ahead.

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Stop

Never miss a chance to bash the RAF or anything none Royal Navy eh? It is becoming very tiresome, we are past the comical stage now.

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Stop

The money

How much will it raise? What are we gonna do with it? Pay off some debts or save some services which would otherwise be cut (I'd vote for some of it to go the NHS who have looked after me well frequently the past year or so - the attitude of the NHS nurses when I was somewhat scared about what was gonna be done to me was angelic compared to private ones I've dealt with)

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£180m is what I heard from other sources and if true that would be a terrific bargain for the Yanks!

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Anonymous Coward

"What are we gonna do with it?"

"Pay off some debts or save some services which would otherwise be cut"

Of course not! This goes into someone's trousers as a "consulting fee" or something. The big question is then whose trousers exactly?

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