Bring Back the Harrier!

I’ve had 500 hits on this blog, so support is gathering! Thank you.

Other recent news items:

The F35, overhyped and over there, still.
A case for resurrecting the Harriers maybe?

The Pentagon has just reduced the performance standards for the F-35C. Among other changes, the length of time required to traverse the transonic speed range (roughly Mach 0.8-1.2) has been lengthened by 43 seconds. The benchmark for these standards is a clean F-16, which takes only about 20 seconds to accelerate through the transonic regime. The new requirement of over a minute for the F-35C confirms that it is rather underpowered, suggesting that in combat missions, it will spend a good deal of time on afterburner.
Between exploding fuel tanks preventing flying missions near thunderstorms, being restricted to 5 g turns, cracks in the wings and flanges, a tendency to catch on fire, a fuel tank venting system that will not allow steep dives below 20,000 ft (6100 m), and using the same batteries that have just grounded the 787 fleet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has encountered some teething problems. Still, it is good to know that, whatever comes, if they remain in the air we can refuel them

Stop Press:

Thanks to the BBC for this:

US grounds entire F-35 jet fleet
Updated 5 minutes ago
The US has grounded its entire fleet of 51 F-35 fighter jets after the discovery of a cracked engine blade.

The fault was detected during a routine inspection of an air force version of the jet (F-35A) at Edwards Air Force Base in California, said the Pentagon.

Different versions are flown by the navy and the marine corps. All have been grounded.

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons programme. with a cost of nearly $400bn (£260bn).

Different versions of the US’s most advanced – and expensive – fighter jet are flown by the Navy and the Marine Corps
The Pentagon said flight operations would remain suspended until the root cause is established.

Friday’s order was the second time in two months planes from the F-35 range have been grounded.

The marine corps variant (F-35B), a short take-off and vertical landing variant (SOVL), was grounded for nearly a month after a manufacturing defect caused a fuel line to detach just before a training flight in January.

The air force version takes off from, and lands on, conventional runways while the SOVL version takes off from shorter runways and lands like a helicopter.

The UK is buying the SOVL variant for its future aircraft carriers.

It is replacing the scrapped Harrier jet which had a range of 300 nautical miles, compared with the F-35’s 450 nautical miles.

With a top speed of 1,200mph (1,930km/h), the F-35 can fly almost twice as fast as the Harrier, while it also has radar transparency and stealth capabilities – the Harrier had neither.

Bring Back the Harrier!

I’ve got a radical idea to reduce the defence budget, create employment and ease public concern over the defence of this country; Scrap the useless Lockheed Lightning II F35 order of <48 aircraft ($100 million a copy) and buy back the Harriers from the USA. It’s win-win: saving $24 billion (plus untold millions on support over 20 years) on cancelling the Lightning II, getting back a tried and tested airframe which will at least be able to use the new aircraft carriers; will be much more cost effective and fill the hole left by their removal from service. I’m sure there will be plenty of people available to bring them back into service, and the running  and buy-back cost would be far less than the F35.

Thanks to Keith Campbell for the following two pictures (©

Remember These Days!

What a Wonderful Sight

The whole country would agree with these sentiments. What is very telling is that friends who have never been in the military and are not to my knowledge warmongers agree with everything I say. What I would like to know is: do this so-called government know where the next aggressor is coming from? Mali? Democratic Republic of the Congo, another unknown threat? No? Nor the rest of us, including the so-called strategists, ‘because they didn’t see Mali coming, or the Arab Spring or Syria or Afghanistan come to that. Even Germany may rise again, who knows? Not me, not you, BUT if we have contingency in place we can protect this once great country of ours. On BBC Question Time on Thursday 24th January politicians of every colour were saying that the defence of this country is the first priority of any government. That has been also stated recently by the Prime Minister that it is the first responsibility of government.  Sometimes I think those in real power forget this. The failure of the F35 so far has been well documented in the media  (BBC News/Daily Telegraph) to whom I give acknowledgement:


Lightning will ground F35 Lightning II

Britain’s £150 million new combat jet has been banned from flying in bad weather amid fears that it could explode.

Attempts to increase fuel efficiency by reducing the jet’s weight have also made it more vulnerable to enemy attack than the generation of aircraft it was supposed to replace

Attempts to increase fuel efficiency by reducing the jet’s weight have also made it more vulnerable to enemy attack than the generation of aircraft it was supposed to replace Photo: AP

The production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – the world’s most sophisticated and expensive combat aircraft – has been derailed after engineers discovered that the jet’s fuel tank could explode if struck by lightning. The disclosure is a major setback for the aircraft, also known as the Lightning II, which is due to enter service with both the RAF and the Royal Navy by 2018.

Britain is buying the F-35B – the short take-off and vertical landing version – as a replacement for the Harrier. The “multirole” plane will be used for air defence, ground attack and reconnaissance missions.

The F-35 has a top speed of 1,300mph and a range of 1,450 miles, while the Harrier could reach a speed of 700mph and had a range of 350 miles. The older aircraft also had no radar transparency or stealth capabilities, while the F-35 has both.

However the version being ordered by Britain is the is the heaviest, least capable and most expensive of the three versions of the plane, as it carries a lift fan propulsion system for its “jump jet” capability, which it needs to land on the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers.

In addition the government has changed its mind over the type of fighter planes it is ordering for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the F35-C had hit development problems and it would be cheaper in the long term to order F35-B jump jets, as originally planned by Labour. The cost of the U-turn is likely to be about £100m.

Mr Hammond said delays to the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter programme, a multinational venture led by American company Lockheed Martin, meant they would have not been operational until 2023 – three years later than planned.

“When the facts change, the responsible thing to do is to examine the decision made and be willing to change, however inconvenient that may be,” said Mr Hammond.

‘Facts have changed’

As part of its SDSR defence spending review in 2010, the government decided to “mothball” one of the two aircraft carriers, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth, ordered by Labour.

Unveiling the decision to “mothball” one of the carriers and order the F35-C in October 2010, as part of the government’s defence review, David Cameron attacked Labour’s “appalling legacy” on defence procurement and said decisions were “now being made in the right way and for the right reasons”.

Labour peer and former security minister Admiral West described the U-turn as a “shambles”.

Lord Stirrup, who was head of the armed forces when the 2010 decision was made, said the government had made a “perfectly rational decision” to backtrack after discovering the “true nature of the costs and the risks that are involved”.

F-35B stealth jump jet

Cost per aircraft: £59.9m*
Extra cost to adapt carrier: £2bn
Combat range: 2,200km (1,200nm)
Rejected: Due to carrier conversion costs

F-35B STOVLSource: JSF, MoD, *2012 prices

Latest news 5th Feb 13:

Joint strike fighter decision was flawed, MPs say

The handling of the decision over the Joint Strike Fighter attracted criticism from MPs

MPs have accused the Ministry of Defence of making a “rushed and flawed” decision to switch fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy’s new carriers.

The defence committee said the 2010 decision to opt for the carrier variant of the joint strike fighter, rather than the jump jet, had been a mistake.

It said this had led to increased costs and delays to the carrier programme.

Ministers said the decision, which was reversed back to jump jets last May, had been “right at the time”.

The previous Labour government had placed orders for two new aircraft carriers to be equipped with the F-35B variant of the American built joint strike fighter (JSF), which is capable of short take-off and vertical landing.


Let’s look at other aspects concerning the F35 and the Harrier. The F35 was always going to be the Harrier replacement but the original service life period was to keep the Harrier in service until 2018. By that time, maybe, the F35’s problems will hopefully be ironed out and it will be ready to enter service.

Two things mitigated against this happening and that was the retention of the Tornado (as supported by two former Chiefs of the Air Staff and the current Chief of the Defence Staff: all Tornado pilots to the core), which was retained sic; ‘because the Harrier design is older’. The  the Ministry of Defence’s was also defended for their decision to retire the Harrier in favour of safeguarding the bulk of the Tornado GR4 fleet, describing it as ‘in cold logic, unavoidable’. In operations such as Ellamy, on the periphery of Europe, the access, basing and over-flight restrictions that would necessitate carrier strike do not apply. There is simply no comparison in terms of platform capability, time on station or versatility between Tornado GR4s operating from a well-found NATO airfield in Italy and Harriers operating from a CVS.” Of course this is from dyed-in-the-wool Tornado pilots who along with others never knew anything about the full potential of the Harrier. This also ignores the Tornado two man crew, two engine set-up and the fact that it can’t hover. The Harrier acquitted itself superbly in Iraq and Afghanistan, whereas the Tornado lost two aircraft in the first week of operations.  It is also a 1970’s design against the Harrier’s latest iteration which was late 80’s. Those in the media who say that the Harrier started flying in 1960 are way short of the mark. The Harrier GR9 was a state of the art machine that had the latest avionics suite and we sold them to to Americans for less than the cost of engine for a Boeing 747. One of the reasons I’m guessing that the Tornado was kept in service, besides the support of the Chiefs of Staff, was that the Harrier couldn’t be modified any more, but the Tornado still had scope for modifications to improve it’s performance and capabilities.  How come the Italians and the Spanish have kept theirs?  Maybe we can borrow some from them.

But the Tornado has not been a fantastic aircraft, it is under-powered and only has a ceiling of 30,000 feet, not great for a supposed multi-role aircraft. The aircraft which is due to replace the Tornado is the Typhoon, which is a potent cold war designed twin jet and is acquitting itself well, mainly due to the skill of the aircrew who have adapted its capabilities to make it too a multi-role aircraft. However, think what would have happened if we had been able to park HMS Illustrious of the coast of Tripoli? The threat of it being on station would have quelled a lot of the uprising, and would not have required the Typhoon/Tornado crews to undertake a 2000 mile round trip from Italy to carry out their bombing raids.

So let’s bring back the Harrier, the aircraft themselves are languishing in the desert in the USA:

Unless of course they have already been stripped for spares in which case the whole of this article is a waste of time, but at least I have got it off my chest.   Thanks for reading and would appreciate any comments.

17 thoughts on “Bring Back the Harrier!

    1. Mark Jarrold

      The arguments for Harrier are well made, in all respects the aircraft was more than appropriate for any foreseeable tasks. The focus now is full on a replacement. F35 and it’s variants are in my opinion too expensive and far too complex to maintain a high level of serviceability in the conditions that we will need to operate.
      The Ministerial decision to pay off Harrier was at best incompetent, we are left with a Royal Navy deprived of it’s most important asset, a defence industry that has yet again been substantially prejudiced and an expertise continuum now severed.
      Woolly and muddled thinking within MOD and at the highest levels of government have failed to grasp reality. In short we have to accept that we can not within the present framework of government spending achieve an effective tri -service array.
      The Next Strategic Defence Review should accept this and understand that the requirement for this countries security is for a Maritime based defence force.
      Such a Force should be based upon a much larger Royal Navy with full capability, this would include at least four Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers and 12 destroyers.
      There is good evidence for all this, recent deployments, weather conflicts or natural disasters would have been dealt with far more efficiently with such a force.
      The replacement for Harrier should be a British contract, this not intended as a slight upon our American friends, we too as the Americans do should be confident enough in our own skill base, interested enough in the employment of our own people and determined to produce another aircraft the world will want. Above all, further insure the security of our people and the interests of our country

      1. cliverh Post author

        Thanks for your considered thoughts. The whole point of my blog was to show that the decision to scrap the Harrier and buy the F35 was very like the 60s when the TSR2 was cancelled and the government trued to buy F111, failed and then bought a 20 year old design, the Phantom. The trouble is that politicians know everything and never listen to experts, their decisions are nearly always based on what is good for their career or that of their party, not for the greater good. I’m glad the blog is provoking comment, but of course in the end, it won’t make a jot of difference.

      2. andy reeves

        maybe the whispers of a fully amalgamated u.k .defence force isn’t too bad an idea.although the army and snobbish power hungry R.A.F. MIGHT HAVE THEIR NOSES PUT OUT BUT I THINK A NON N P OLITICITAL U.K.D.F. WOULD BE BETTER BALANCE, EFFECTIVE AND FLEXABLE FORCE BETTER ABLE TO PURCHASE ASSETS FROM ANYWHERE AND NOT JUST GIVING bae A DEFENCE MONOPOLY.

      3. cliverh Post author

        Sorry Andy where did you get the idea that they’re talking about a combined force? That has been tried by many other countries: Canada, Denmark, Turkey etc and it doesn’t work. If BAE wasn’t there who else in the UK would supply our defence needs? Do you WANT foreign produced kit?

  1. Evan Lloyd

    I agree with keeping the Harrier.
    It would have just been easier and less costly to develop the new technology and incorporate into the harriers, as it is designed to be constantly upgraded.
    Also earlier this year the Americans discovered more issues with the whole range of F-35′s. This means there is now around 35 problems with the aircraft.
    Personally I wouldn’t even agree to piloting it. Not to mention, it doesn’t carry as many weapon systems as the Harrier.

  2. Trevor J Troth

    Have to say I agree to a certain extent though I would look to bring the Harrier back in an advanced/enhanced form rather than buy back old airframes. Pretty sure producing new ones would still be a cheaper option (going by the average across the three F-35 types of $178 million each versus an AV8B at a reputed $23 million each) than the F-35 and add more to our economy/know how/jobs. Some might say ‘well that’s what the Lightning is….an enhanced Harrier’. No! It simply isn’t. It’s a completely different beast. I agree with the Mark Jarrold above with his comment regarding a maritime based defence force. Four carriers of QE size minimum (preferably with CATOBAR to allow the operation of other aircraft) and a further two of an assault ship variety (think Wasp class….another use for the Harriers) plus the requisite escorts. Once again the MoD & senior members of the armed forces have cocked it up. The Nimrod was another utter disaster when a perfectly obvious (at bare minimum stop gap) solution was on hand already – enter the ubiquitous Hercules (coincidentally now being developed by Lockheed for Maritime Patrol). When the forces are crying out about parts chains what could be simpler than more variations of the same beast using the same base parts. Anyway, I digress. The Harrier is a more than adequate aircraft for the current needs of both the RAF & RN, and if it’s truly necessary to have something akin to the Lightning in the future then the Harrier could later supplement it once the problems are all ironed out (if that ever happens). That would allow ‘us’ to have some ‘hi-tech’ kit to play with and greater numbers of aircraft in total (I’d rather have 70 Harriers and 20 Lightnings than 30 Lightnings, and by all accounts that’s the cost ratio of an AV8B versus an F-35….7:1). I’d go so far as to say we have killed off the Harrier far too soon much akin to the Buccaneer (the ‘plane the RAF didn’t want but grew to love, and another that could be brought back in an advanced form), it does seem to be a habit the MoD have! Looking at it another way, the Navy and RAF could buy a lot more other aircraft to supplement what they have or maybe the Army could have some lovely YA-10B development Thunderbolt II’s to play with. I realise I’m long after the original ‘blog’ but still no F-35’s today….well….4 I think so far and still problems. For what it’s worth I’m in agreement.

  3. Debbie


  4. Rosalind Well

    The UK needs to really plan ahead now; OK we have the F35 choice. Reminds me of the decision about the Phantom. Nothing wrong with either decision but lets really plan ahead for the F35 replacement.

    We need the cost effectiveness of the Hawker Harrier and the ‘smarts’ of a mid 21st century airframe. I think it needs to be British designed and manufactured to ensure the UK can build it, service it and of course sell variants of it.

    To really ensure it is British we need to revamp our own aviation industry. To quote from Lady Lucy Houston during the 1930’s ‘Wake up England’.


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