Originating in Great Britain, the Harrier attracted the interest of the United States Marine Corps in 1966 because of its unique ability to land and take off vertically like a helicopter, enabling it to operate from makeshift airfields near the front lines or small deck amphibious assault ships, thereby providing a quick response in the close air support of ground troops. During Operation Desert Storm, a total of 86 Harriers flew combat missions from both ship and shore, logging 3,380 sorties. Harriers also flew in support of Operation Allied Force, the sustained NATO air campaign against Kosovo in 1999, and continue to fly in support of operations in Afghanistan.
The AV-8 Harrier is one of the most unique aircraft ever produced. Capable of vertical takeoff and landings, the Harrier can operate from makeshift, front line airfields to provide rapid close air support to ground forces. In 1970 the Marine Corps ordered 102 AV-8A Harriers and two trainers (TAV-8A). These AV-8A aircraft were essentially the same as British Royal Air Force Harriers, but with American avionics, flight control and weapons systems. The last of this batch was delivered in 1976, with the retirement of the final AV-8A coming a decade later.
Reluctant to have military aircraft manufactured outside of the United States, a licensing agreement was concluded between Hawker-Siddley (later British Aerospace) and McDonnell-Douglas for the manufacture of the follow-on AV-8B Harrier II, designed to give the Harrier the payload, range and accuracy of the modern conventional aircraft. Testing was so successful that the initial production order of twelve AV-8Bs was placed before the program was completed, and delivered to the Marines in January 1984. While outwardly resembling the earlier Harriers, the AV-8B was a new and totally different aircraft that incorporated a higher thrust engine (21,500 lb. vs. 20,000 lb.) giving about the same speed but allowing for a much greater payload. It featured a new supercritical wing holding more fuel, six payload wing pylons instead of four, and a fuselage station.
With wing tanks half full, the AV-8B can lift about 7,000 lb. near vertically, or carry an external load of 9,200 lb. with a take-off run of about 850 ft. Payloads can include various bombs and other weapons, plus additional fuel, or a 25mm cannon with 300 rounds in two pods under the fuselage. It also has radar, flare and chaff dispensers, night vision capability, Angle Rate Bombing Set (ARBS) for laser or TV guided weapons delivery, Heads Up Display (HUD), and provision for an electronic countermeasures pod. For battle conditions, it has its own ground starting and oxygen generating equipment. Devoid of an afterburner and with deflected jet blast, the Harrier has a low infrared signature, making it a more difficult target for heat seeking missiles.
Originally delivered as an AV-8A Harrier on 17 January 1974, the Museum's display aircraft was redesignated an AV-8C in 1982, one of 47 AV-8As converted. Its served in Marine Attack Squadrons (VMA) 513 and 231, flying from the amphibious assault ships USS Nassau (LHA-4), USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7), and USS Tarawa (LHA-1).
|Type:||Light attack/close air support aircraft|
|Powerplant:||One 21,500 lb. static thrust Rolls-Royce Pegasus 103F402-RR-401|
Length: 45 ft., 7 in.
Empty: 13,086 lb.
Max Speed: 730 mph
Provisions for 25mm cannon, AIM-9 Sidewinder and Maverick missiles, bombs and rockets