BAE Systems Hawk

Aircraft Profile
Royal Saudi Air Force Hawk Mk 65
(photo, BAE SYSTEMS)

Development

The Hawk originates from a 1964 requirement for a new RAF trainer to replace the Gnat. The two-seat Jaguar was initially intended for this role, but it was soon realised that this would be far from ideal. Accordingly, in 1968 Hawker Siddeley Aviation began the design of a much simpler strictly subsonic trainer, which it designated P.1182 (later HS.1182). The stepped cockpit, allowing the instructor in the rear seat a good forward view, was an innovation subsequently adopted by many other training aircraft.

Confidence in the design was such that no prototypes or pre-production aircraft were ordered, the first six production aircraft being used for development testing. Five of these aircraft were later delivered to the RAF. After entering RAF service in April 1976, the Hawk replaced the Gnat and Hunter in the advanced training and weapons training roles respectively. The most famous RAF operator being the ‘Red Arrows’ aerobatic team.

The Hawk gained an additional role from January 1983, when modification of 88 RAF aircraft to carry Sidewinder missiles commenced. The resulting T.Mk 1A variant was intended for emergency use as a point-defence fighter, supporting Phantoms and Tornados in the UK Defence Region. These aircraft are now used as dedicated weapons trainers. The Hawk subsequently replaced the Canberra in the target towing role.

The Royal Navy also acquired a dozen Hawk T.Mk 1/1As from the RAF, for use by FRADU as aerial targets for the training of ships gunners and radar operators.

From an early stage, the Hawk had aroused considerable export interest, and in 1977 the 50 series export variant was introduced. This minimum change version included provision for underwing drop tanks for the first time. In 1982 an improved export version, the 60 series was introduced, featuring an uprated engine, improved wing aerodynamics and revised wheels and tyres. Further development led to the Hawk 100 and Hawk 200 series, described separately. The T-45 Goshawk variant, adopted by the US Navy is also described separately.

Variants

Requirement Specification: AST 397
Manufacturers Designation: HS.1182

Development History:
P.1182 Designation for initial project studies
HS.1182 Manufacturers designation for final project studies
Hawk T.Mk 1 Initial production version. No prototypes or pre-production aircraft produced
Hawk T.Mk 1A Modification to T.Mk 1A to allow installation of AIM-9L Sidewinder AAMs on underwing launchers for use in a back-up air defence role
Hawk 50 series Initial export version based on T.Mk 1
Hawk Mk 51 Initial export version for Finland
Hawk Mk 51A Second export batch for Finland
Hawk Mk 52 Export version for Kenya
Hawk Mk 53 Export version for Indonesia
Hawk 60 series Improved export version. Uprated Mk 861 Adour engine of 5,700 lb st (25.4 kN), additional wing leading-edge fences and four-position flaps to improve lift, anti-skid brakes and revised wheels and tyres.
Hawk Mk 60 Initial 60 series export version
Hawk Mk 60A Second batch for Indonesia
Hawk Mk 61 Export version for Dubai
Hawk Mk 63 Upgrade conversion of Mk 60 for Abu Dhabi
Hawk Mk 64 Export version for Kuwait
Hawk Mk 65 Export version for Saudi Arabia
Hawk Mk 66 Export version for Switzerland
Hawk Mk 67 Hybrid export version for South Korea. Combines a 60 series airframe with the avionics and systems of the 100 series aircraft. Equipped with ranging radar in an extended nose and nosewheel steering.
Hawk 100 series Advanced two-seat trainer and light attack variant
Hawk 200 series Single-seat fighter and ground attack variant
T-45 Goshawk Carrier-landing capable variant for the US Navy

History

Key Dates:
1968    Initial design studies
January 1970    Official AST 397 Requirement Issued
October 1970    HS.1182 wins production contract
1973    ‘Hawk’ name chosen
21 August 1974    Maiden flight of first prototype T.Mk 1
April 1976    First delivery of production T.Mk 1 to RAF
December 1977    First export delivery Mk 51 to Finland
1982    Red Arrows aerobatic team converts to Hawk
July 1982    First ’60 series’ export orders placed
January 1983    Contract for T.Mk 1A conversions placed
May 1986    T.Mk 1A conversions completed
1999    New fuselage programme for T.Mk.1/1A starts

Operators

Military Operators

Abu Dhabi AF Mk 60 – 16 a/c (15 to Mk 63A)
Dubai AF Mk 61 – 9 a/c
Finland AF Mk 51 – 50 a/c, Mk 51A – 7 a/c
Indonesia AF Mk 53 – 20 a/c
Kenya AF Mk 52 – 12 a/c
Kuwait AF Mk 64 – 12 a/c
Saudi Arabia AF Mk 65 – 30 a/c
South Korea AF Mk 67 – 20 a/c
Switzerland AF Mk 66 – 20 a/c
United Kingdom AF T.Mk 1 – 175 a/c (88 to T.Mk 1A)
United Kingdom Navy T.Mk 1/1A – 12 a/c ex-RAF
Zimbabwe AF Mk 60 – 8 a/c, Mk 60A – 5 a/c

Government Agencies

United Kingdom ETPS T.Mk 1 – 1 a/c, Hawk ASTRA – 1 a/c
United Kingdom Qinetiq T.Mk 1/1A – 2+ a/c ex-RAF

Civilian Operators

None

Specifications

BAE SYSTEMS Hawk T.Mk.1
Crew: Two (Instructor – Rear cockpit, Trainee – Front cockpit)
Dimensions: Length 38 ft 11 in (11.86 m) incl. nose probe, 36 ft 7.75 in (11.17 m) excl. nose probe; Height 13 ft 1.24 in (3.99 m); Wing Span 30 ft 9.75 in (9.39 m); Wing Area 179.60 sq ft (16.69 sq m)
Engines: One Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour Mk151-01 rated at 5,200 lb st (23.13 kN) dry
Weights: Empty Equipped 8,040 lb (3647 kg); Normal Take-off 11,100 lb (5035 kg); Maximum Take-off 12,566 lb (5700 kg)
Armament: Normal maximum external ordnance 1,500 lb (680 kg), Absolute maximum external ordnance 6,800 lb (3084 kg) on three hard points. Loads may comprise single 30-mm gun pod under the fuselage, and two AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles or light bombs or [Export versions only] two underwing drop tanks of up to 190 Imp gal (228 US gal, 864 litres)
Performance: Maximum level speed 560 kt (645 mph, 1038 km/h) at 11,000 ft (3355 m); Maximum rate of climb at sea level 9,300 ft/min (2835 m/min); Service ceiling 50,000 ft (15240 m); Standard range 1310 nm (1509 miles, 2428 km); Ferry range 1670 nm (1923 miles, 3094 km)

Production

Design Centre

Head of Design Team: Gordon Hudson (Design of the Hawk)
Assistant Chief Designer: Gordon Hodson (Customer Requirements/Marketing)
Design Office: Kingston Upon Thames, London

Manufacture

BAE SYSTEMS PLC, United Kingdom
(Formerly British Aerospace plc, Formerly Hawker-Siddeley Aviation Ltd)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
Hawk T.Mk 1 175 Dunsfold, Surrey* 1973-1982
Hawk 50 series  39 Dunsfold, Surrey* 1977-1981
Hawk 60 series 101 Dunsfold, Surrey* 1982-1992
Total: 315    

* Fuselages made at Kingston upon Thames factory near London.

Valmet, Finland
(Later Finaviatec)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
Hawk Mk 51 50 Helsinki 1977-1980
Total: 50    
F+W, Switzerland
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
Hawk Mk 66 20 Emmen 1985-1987
Total: 20    

Total Produced: 385 a/c

Production List

Hawk Production

Dubai AW Hawk Mk 61 serial 501
(photo, BAE SYSTEMS)

More Information

Books

‘Hawk Comes Of Age’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Peter R March
Published by RAF Benevolent Fund Enterprises Ltd, Dec 1995 ISBN: 1 89980 800 0
* Very well illustrated history.

‘BAe Hawk – Modern Combat Aircraft No.20’
by Arthur Reed
Published by Ian Allan Ltd, 1985 ISBN: 0 7110 1465 5
* Development and operational history of the Hawk.

‘Hawk – British Aerospace’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Roy Braybrook
Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, Oct 1984 ISBN: 0 85045 580 4
* Very good development history up to the Hawk 200.

‘Hawk T.1 – Aeroguide 1’
by Roger Chesnau & Ray Rimell
Published by Linewrights Ltd, 1983 ISBN: tba
* Modellers guide to the RAF Hawk.

‘BAe Hawk in Worldwide Service – On Target Profiles 3’
by Jon Freeman
Published by The Aviation Workshop Publications Ltd, 2004 ISBN: tba
* Collection of colour profile drawings of the various Hawk variants.

‘World Air Power Journal, Volume 22’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by Aerospace Publishing Ltd, July 1995 ISBN: 1 87402 362 X
* Includes very detailed 66-page feature on the Hawk.

Magazines

To be added.

Links

The BAe Hawk
(Well written Hawk history)

ASTRA Hawk
(Brief details of the ASTRA Hawk used by ETPS)

Halo
(Mention of Hawk T.1 testing at Warton)

Airliners.Net
(2 pages of Hawk photos)

Shop

Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
Aviation News Vol.8 No.4, 20 July 1979

Videos:

To be added.

BAE Systems Nimrod

Aircraft Profile
Second prototype MRA.4 ZJ518 makes it’s first flight.
(photo, BAE SYSTEMS)

Development

Named after the ‘mighty hunter’ described in the Bible (Genesis X, 8-12) the Nimrod has successfully patrolled the seas around the British Isles for more than three decades. Successive updates have maintained the pre-eminence of the Nimrod in its primary role of hunting and killing enemy submarines, and a new upgraded version is now under development.

After an abortive attempt at finding a NATO-standard Maritime Patrol Aircraft had failed in 1959, a renewed attempt to replace the Avro Shackleton in the maritime patrol role began in July 1963 when Air Staff Target (AST) 357 was issued. This called for a sophisticated medium-sized jet-powered aircraft. Proposals submitted included the HS.800, a tri-jet design based on the Hawker Siddeley Trident, but the estimated costs involved in developing such an aircraft proved much too high. This became clear in June 1964 when Air Staff Requirement (ASR) 381 was issued, calling for a much less capable aircraft which could match or exceed the performance of the French Breguet Atlantic.

In an attempt to prevent the French aircraft from winning the contest, engineers at Hawker Siddeley (formerly Avro) at Chadderton came up with the idea of mating the proven Comet airframe with an under fuselage pannier similar to the one developed for the HS.800 proposal. In a very short space of time, the design office developed an unpressurised lower fuselage fairing which snugly fitted over the lower portion of the Comet fuselage, giving it a distinctive ‘double-bubble’ shape. Extending from the nose to the rear fuselage the pannier brought a dramatic increase in useable space for operational equipment and weapons while minimising additional drag. By replacing the existing Rolls-Royce Avon engines with new, less-thirsty, Spey turbofan engines a very acceptable endurance could be achieved. To keep costs down, much of the mission avionics would be similar to that already used in the Shackleton. Designated HS.801, the Comet derivative was offered to meet ASR 381 in July 1964.

In February 1965 it was announced in Parliament that the HS.801 had been selected to replace the Shackleton. A fixed price contract for thirty eight production aircraft was agreed in January 1966, at which time the name Nimrod was selected. In the meantime the conversion of two unsold Comet 4C airframes to act as prototypes had begun. The first to fly, XV148, took the role of aerodynamic test vehicle. It was fitted with a early version of the fuselage fairing and also served to flight test the Spey engine installation. The second prototype, XV147, retained its original Avon engines to reduce risk and timescales, and assumed the role of avionics testbed. Less than a year later, on 28 June 1968, the first new-build production Nimrod MR.Mk 1 took to the air. The flight test programme was remarkably trouble free and on 2 October 1969 the RAF took delivery of its first aircraft, the Maritime Operational Conversion Unit (MOCU – later 236 OCU) at St Mawgan in Cornwall being the first to operate the type. Production aircraft were soon being delivered to operational units at RAF Kinloss, Morayshire, and at RAF St Mawgan, Cornwall. The last unit to begin re-equipping was 203 Sqn at Luqa on Malta, which received its first aircraft in October 1971.

While production was getting underway, it was realised that the Nimrod airframe would make an ideal replacement for the ageing Comet 4Cs still used by the RAF for Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) duties. The Comet offered ample internal space for electronic equipment and excellent cruise performance. Accordingly, three additional airframes were ordered under the designation Nimrod R.Mk 1, with the first being delivered to 51 Squadron at RAF Wyton as virtually an empty shell in July 1971. Over the next three years a complex array of sophisticated electronic eavesdropping equipment was fitted to the three aircraft, resulting in a large number of antennae appearing on the fuselage. The aircraft initially only differed externally in having the MAD probe in the tail deleted and dieletric radomes in the nose of each external wing tank and in the tailcone.

Over the years, the R.Mk 1 aircraft have undergone numerous equipment upgrades as electronic surveillance becomes ever more sophisticated. Some of the cabin windows have been blocked up to allow installation of more equipment, and the fuselage antennae have exhibited several changes. Around 1982 the three R.Mk 1s gained wing tip ESM (Electronic Sensing Measures) pods of a design later fitted to the AEW.Mk 3. and MR.Mk 2 variants. In 1995 R. 1 XW666 was lost in an accident after an engine fire. To replace it, MR.1 XV249 was converted to R.1 standard. The R.1 has played a low profile but key role in many conflicts, from the Falklands War to the 2003 Second Gulf War, identifying and classifying enemy air defence systems and gathering information on enemy activities.

Meanwhile, an order for a second batch of eight MR.1s (bringing the total to 46) was announced in January 1972 to bring the existing Nimrod squadrons up to full strength. The 1974 defence cuts resulted in 203 Sqn being disbanded in 1977. It’s Nimrods were flown back to the UK and placed in storage. In 1975 work began on a comprehensive avionics upgrade for the MR.1. The new equipment suite included a Thorn EMI Searchwater radar in place of the aging ASV-21D unit, a new GEC Central Tactical System and the AQS-901 acoustics system compatible with the latest ‘Barra’ sonobuoys. Thirty-five MR.1 were upgraded to the new MR.2 standard, with the first aircraft being redelivered to 201 Sqn on 23 August 1979.

The invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 brought the Nimrod to public attention. Eight MR.2s were fitted with ex-Vulcan in-flight refuelling probes on the fuselage and small swept finlets on the tailplane in the space of just 18 days under the designation MR.2P. The previously unused underwing hardpoints were adapted to carry Sidewinder missiles, allowing the MR.2P to be described in the popular press as the world’s largest fighter. Patrols were flown over the south Atlantic looking for Argentine submarines and surface vessels, and also in support of British operations from Ascension Island. In the late 1980s, all MR.2s were fitted with new BAe designed in-flight refuelling probes. From 1985 the MR.2s began to be fitted with wingtip ESM pods, as developed for the R.1, to enhance their surveillance capability. In late 1990 several Nimrod MR.2s were fitted with an underwing FLIR turret under the starboard wing, BOZ pod under the port wing and a Towed Radar Decoy, under the unofficial designation MR.2(GM) – where GM stood for Gulf Mod. Nimrods helped to secure the Arabian Gulf sea lanes during the 1991 Gulf War and returned in 2003 to take part in the liberation of Iraq.

A much less successful variant of the Nimrod was the AEW.3 In 1973 the RAF had begun to examine the options for replacing the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) variant of the Shackleton operated by No.8 Squadron. Boeing offered a variant of the successful E-3A, but the over water performance of its radar was judged to be poor and in March 1977 it was announced that a specialised version of the Nimrod, the AEW. Mk3 would be procured instead. This would be based on the Nimrod airframe but featured a large bulbous radome in the nose and a similar radome in the tail, providing 360 degree radar coverage. A weather radar was located in the starboard external fuel tank and ESM pods fitted on the wing tips. On 28 June 1977 a Comet 4C (XW626) converted to carry the nose radar unit made the first of a series of flight trials. Initial results were promising, and so 3 AEW.3 development aircraft were produced by converting redundant MR.1 airframes to carry the prototype radar equipment. The first flew on 16 July 1980.

While development of the radar electronics, (and the software that controlled it), was proceeding, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) chose to impose a new and more stringent specification on the radar system. Meeting the new requirement meant a lot of redesign and retesting for British Aerospace and GEC, which inevitably delayed the planned in-service date for the aircraft. Nevertheless, in anticipation of a successful outcome of the revised system, a production batch of 8 aircraft was laid down down, using further redundant MR.1 airframes. The first example flew on 9 March 1982. By now the MoD had changed the technical specification several more times. The increased workload of trying to meet a constantly changing requirement with an extremely advanced electronics system which depended on sophisticated hardware and software was now proving to be extremely taxing task, and forecast timescales extended even further into the future. The first interim standard AEW aircraft was delivered to No.8 Sqn in 1984 to allow crew training to commence. At the same time a thorough review of the whole AEW programme was launched to determine whether a reliable and effective system could be produced and put into service. In September 1986 the AEW requirement was reopened to competing bidders and in December of that year the Boeing E-3 Sentry was declared the winner. The Nimrod AEW was immediately cancelled. Unusable AEW airframes were stored at RAF Abingdon until they were scrapped in the 1990s. Poor management by the MoD had doomed a promising programme, despite the best efforts of the systems developers.

In 1993 ASR420 was issued calling for a Replacement Maritime Patrol Aircraft (RPMA) for the RAF. Bids were submitted in 1995 and included a new-build version of the P-3 Orion, upgraded second-hand Orions and from BAe an upgraded version of the Nimrod MR.2 called Nimrod 2000. At the time BAe was rather short of work, and its bid was seen as a relatively low risk update which would be able to use much of the existing Nimrod training and support infrastructure. On 25 July 1996 the RMPA contract was awarded to BAe for the Nimrod 2000. Unfortunately, by this time BAe had also won several other important contracts and the staff and resources available to work on this particular project had become rather limited. With MoD agreement, the necessary work was therefore parcelled up into a number of work packages and subcontracted a number of different partner companies and also split between several different BAe sites including Woodford, Brough and Filton.

The Nimrod 2000 proposal comprised a complete strip-down and zero-life programme for the airframe, new larger wings housing Rolls-Royce BMW BR.710 engines, new radar and sensor systems and new tactical computer system. Boeing was contracted as the avionics systems integrator. In February 1997 the first three stripped-down Nimrod fuselages were delivered to FR Aviation in Bournemouth. Due to the lack of resources at BAe and poor management oversight of the many geographically dispersed work packages, the programme soon began to run late and over budget. In 1999 Rolls-Royce were ready to deliver the first engines, but BAe had no airframes ready to accept them. A programme review in 1999 revealed that work was already running 3 years behind schedule. BAe was forced to renegotiate the contract, incurring a substantial financial penalty in the process. By now, the Nimrod 2000 name had been quietly dropped. The first reburbished airframe was returned to Woodford in January 2000. Incredibly, it took until 2003 for assembly of the first prototype MRA.4 (ZJ516) to be carried out. Unfortunately, when the second set of Airbus-build wings were offered up to the second prototype fuselage, it was found that they didn’t fit. Build tolerances acceptable in the 1960s for the fuselage were too great for the laser-precise tolerances used in the new wing. This problem highlighted BAe management’s fundamental lack of understanding of what it was they were actually trying to achieve. After an interminable amount of time performing system checks, the first prototype MRA.4 took to the air on 26 August 2004 – more than four years late. In September 2004 a round of politically inspired defence cuts resulted in the planned order for MRA.4 being reduced from 18 to ‘about 12’. Delivery of the sixth aircraft is now planned for 2009, with all aircraft likely to be based at RAF Kinloss initially.

The Nimrod MRA.4 is but a crude charicature of the MR.2 that it is intended to replace, exhibiting a complete absence of the elegant blending of form and function which characterised the original 1960s design. In the same vein, the MR.2, which in 1981 was described as the most complex airborne system ever to enter service with the RAF, serves as a model of efficient project managment compared to the inept bungling exhibited by the present generation of project managers. However, despite it’s ugly appearance and late delivery, the updated Nimrod should reclaim it’s crown as the world’s leading maritime patrol aircraft.

MR.1 XV233 shows the original grey-white
colour scheme. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
MR.1 XV245 in a classic pose
(photo, Crown Copyright)

Variants

Requirement Specification: ASR381 – MR.Mk 1, ASR389 – R.Mk 1, ASR420 – MRA.Mk 4
Manufacturers Designation: HS.801

Development History:
HS.801 prototypes Two Comet 4Cs converted to act as Nimrod prototypes. Ventral weapons pannier under cabin, search radar in nose, MAD stinger in tail, fin-tip radome, dorsal fin added. 1st prototype (aerodynamic testbed) with RB.163-20 Spey engines, 2nd prototype (electronic testbed) with Avon engines.
Nimrod MR.Mk 1 Initial production version (38 aircraft). ASV-21D search radar, Marconi Elliott 920B central computer.
Nimrod MR.Mk 1 Last 8 production aircraft (second batch) delivered with updated communications system – as later used on MR.Mk 2. Strengthened structure for gross weights of 192,000 lb (87090 kg).
Nimrod R.Mk 1 Specialised ELINT version of MR.Mk 1 with completely new avionics fit. No MAD tailboom, no searchlight. Dielectric radomes in each external wing tank nose, numerous antenna above and below fuselage. Auxiliary fuel tanks in weapons bay. Later fitted with wingtip ESM pods and some cabin windows deleted as additional equipment fitted.
Nimrod R.Mk 1P Designation applied to R.Mk 1 when fitted with in-flight refuelling probe in 1982. Small swept finlets added to tailplane. ‘P’ suffix later dropped.
Nimrod MR.Mk 2 Upgraded Maritime Reconnaissance version. New avionics fit with Thorn EMI Searchwater radar, new GEC central tactical system, new AQS-901 acoustics system, new communications suite. Air scoop on port rear fuselage close to dorsal fin, for avionics cooling system.
Export Nimrod Version of MR.Mk 2 offered to Canada and Australia. Strengthened structure for gross weights of 192,000 lb (87090 kg). Additional fuel tanks in weapons bay. New APU. Provision for Flight Refuelling drogue pod under each wing. Not built.
Nimrod MR.Mk 2P Designation applied to MR.Mk 2 when fitted with in-flight refuelling probe in 1982. Small swept finlets added to tailplane. Wingtip ESM pods subsequently fitted and tailplane finlets enlarged. ‘P’ suffix dropped in late 1990s.
Nimrod MR.Mk 2P(GM) ‘Gulf Mod’ version tailored for use in 1991 Gulf War. Underwing FLIR turret on starboard wing, BOZ pods, Towed Radar Decoy.
Nimrod AEW.Mk 3 Specialised Airborne Early Warning (AEW) version. Conversion of MR.Mk 1 with bulbous radome in nose and tailcone. Weather radar in starboard external fuel tank. ESM pods on wing tips.
Nimrod AEW.Mk 3P Designation applied to AEW.Mk 3 XV263 when fitted with in-flight refuelling probe.
Nimrod MRA.4 Significantly upgraded Maritime Reconnaissance Attack version with new larger wing, larger engine air intakes, BR710 engines, new stronger wider-track undercarriage, large tailplane finlets. Completely new mission system: Searchwater 2000MR radar, UXS503/AQS970 acoustic processor, Nighthunter IR/TV electro-optical turret under nose, EL/L-8300UK ESM suite, DASS self-protection system, advanced communication system. 2-man Airbus-style ‘glass’ cockpit.
MR.1 (note lack of cooling air scoop) XV251
in ‘Hemp’ colours. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
R.1 XW664 of 51 Sqn in 1988 – note ‘hockey
stick’ aerials. (photo, Keith McKenzie)

History

Key Dates:
July 1963    AST 357 issued, calling for a sophisticated jet aircraft to replace the Shackleton by 1972.
October 1963    Hawker Siddeley submits MR aircraft feasibility study.
April 1964    Hawker Siddeley submits proposal based on HS.800 version of Trident airliner.
4 June 1964    ASR 381 issued, calling for cheaper and more rapid Shackleton replacement.
June 1964    Design of HS.801 based on Comet 4 airliner begins.
July 1964    HS.801 offered to meet ASR 381.
February 1965    Decision to order HS.801 announced.
June 1965    Hawker Siddeley receives Instruction to Proceed (ITP).
January 1966    Fixed price contract placed for 38 Nimrod MR.Mk 1s.
23 May 1967    First flight of Spey-engined prototype (XV148).
31 July 1967    First flight of Avon-engined prototype (XV147).
28 June 1968    Maiden flight of first production Nimrod MR.Mk 1 (XV226).
2 October 1969    First production MR.Mk1 (XV230) delivered to RAF – 236 OCU at St Mawgan.
October 1969    Order placed for 3 R.Mk 1 ELINT versions.
27 Nov 1969    RAF Strike Command absorbs Coastal Command.
October 1970    RAF Kinloss (201 Sqn) begins conversion to Nimrod
7 July 1971    First R.Mk 1 (XW664) delivered to 51 Sqn as an ’empty shell’.
January 1972    Second batch of 8 MR.Mk 1s announced.
1973    Project definition for Nimrod AEW version carried out.
21 October 1973    Flight trials begin of mission-equipped R.Mk 1s.
10 May 1974    51 Sqn formally commissioned with Nimrod R.Mk.1.
1975    Work starts on MR.Mk 2 upgrade
31 March 1977    Nimrod AEW chosen to meet British AEW requirement.
28 June 1977    Converted Comet 4C (XW626) begins AEW radar trials.
13 February 1979    First MR.Mk 2 production conversion first flight (XV236).
23 August 1979    Redelivery of first upgraded MR.Mk 2 to RAF.
1980    Major avionics update for R.Mk 1s carried out.
16 July 1980    First flight of first development AEW.Mk 3 (XZ286).
9 March 1982    First production AEW.Mk 3 first flight.
14 April 1982    Work starts on in-flight refuelling probe installation design for MR.Mk 2.
27 April 1982    First probe equipped MR.Mk 2P flies (XV229).
29 May 1982    First carriage of AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles (XV229).
early 1982    Initial planned Nimrod AEW service entry date.
Spring 1985    ESM wingtip pods introduced to MR.Mk 2.
1985    Upgrade of 35 MR.1 aircraft to MR.2 standard completed.
1984    First AEW aircraft delivered to 8 Sqn for crew training
September 1986    AEW competition reopened by MoD.
December 1986    E-3 Sentry selected as winner, Nimrod AEW.Mk 3 cancelled.
15 May 1995    R.Mk 1 XW666 ditches after catastrophic engine fire.
1993    Request for information for Replacement Maritime Patrol Aircraft (RMPA) to meet ASR 420
April 1994    Installation of ‘Starwindow’ avionics update for R.Mk 1 commences.
1995    Bids submitted for RMPA
25 July 1996    Nimrod 2000 wins RMPA competition
2 December 1996    Fixed price contract awarded to BAE SYSTEMS for Nimrod 2000 development
14 February 1997    First of 3 Nimrod fuselages delivered to FR Aviation at Bournemouth
early 1998    Nimrod 2000 renamed Nimrod MRA.4
late 1998    Nimrod MRA.4 programme reviewed due to poor progress.
1999    Nimrod MRA.4 contract re-negotiated – 3 years slip in delivery to service.
1999    First BR.710-48 engine deliveries for Nimrod MRA.4.
January 2000    First fuselage returned to Woodford.
19 December 2001    Electrical ‘power on’ for first MRA.4.
2002    Initial planned delivery date for MRA.4.
March 2002    Engines installed in first MRA.4.
February 2003    Programe restructured again – further delay to in-service date.
21 July 2004    MRA.4 order reduced to ‘about 12’.
26 August 2004    First flight of MRA.4 first prototype (ZJ516).
15 December 2004    Second prototype (ZJ518) first flight
2009    Current forecast for MRA.4 in-service date.
MR.2 XV254 in 1989 with ESM pods and large
tailplane finlets. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
MR.2 XV230 in the circuit at Kinloss in 2000
(photo, Keith McKenzie)

Operators

Military Operators

Royal Air Force MR.Mk 1 – 5 sqns + OCU, R.Mk 1 – 1 sqn, MR.Mk 2 – 4 sqns + OCU, MRA.Mk 4 – 2 sqns planned

Government Agencies

RRE/RSRE* Bedford 1 HS.801 prototype

Civilian Operators

Hawker Siddeley/British Aerospace 3 MR.Mk 1 + 1 HS.801 prototype

* Radar Research Establishment (later Royal Signals & Radar Establishment)

MR.2 XV260 on approach at Kinloss in 120
Sqn markings. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
MR.2 XV241 marked up for the 1989 Fincastle Trophy. (photo, Keith McKenzie)

Specifications

Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR.Mk.1
Accomodation: 3 flight crew + 9 sensor operators or 45 troops in secondary trooping role
Dimensions: Length 126 ft 9 in (38.63 m); Height 29 ft 8.5 in (9.05 m); Wing Span 114 ft 10 in (35.00 m); Wing Area 2,121 sq ft (197.04 sq m)
Engines: Four Rolls-Royce RB.168-20 Spey Mk 250 turbojets rated at 12,140 lb st (54.00 kN) dry each
Weights: Empty 86,000 lb (39,010 kg); Gross Weight 175,500 lb (79,605 kg); Maximum Take-off 177,500 lb (80,514 kg); Maximum Overload 192,000 lb (87,090 kg)*; Maximum Payload 13,500 lb (6,124 kg)
Performance: Maximum Speed at optimum altitude 500 kts (575 mph, 926 kph); Maximum Cruising Speed (Max Transit Speed) at optimum altitude 475 kts (547 mph, 880 kph); Economical Cruising Speed (Econ Transit Speed) at optimum altitude 425 kts (490 mph, 787 kph); Service ceiling 42,000 ft (12,800 m); Ferry Range 5,000 nm (5,758 miles, 9266 km); Maximum Endurance 15 hours 0 minutes, Typical Endurance 12 hrs 0 minutes.
Armament: Mines, depth charges, Stingray homing torpedoes, bombs in internal weapons bay + 4 optional under-wing pylons for Aerospatiale AS.12 or Martel anti-ship missiles

* With extra fuel in removable bomb-bay tanks.

Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR.Mk.2
Accomodation: 3 flight crew + 9 (later 10) sensor operators or 45 troops in secondary trooping role
Dimensions: Length 126 ft 9 in (38.63 m) excluding probe, 129 ft 1 in (39.34) with IFR probe; Height 29 ft 8.5 in (9.05 m); Wing Span 114 ft 10 in (35.00 m) without ESM pods; Wing Area 2,121 sq ft (197.04 sq m)
Engines: Four Rolls-Royce RB.168-20 Spey Mk 250 turbojets rated at 12,140 lb st (54.00 kN) dry each
Weights: Empty 92,000 lb (41,730 kg); Gross Weight 175,500 lb (79,605 kg); Maximum Take-off 177,500 lb (80,514 kg); Maximum Overload 192,000 lb (87,090 kg)*; Maximum Payload 13,500 lb (6,124 kg)
Performance: Maximum Speed at optimum altitude 500 kts (575 mph, 926 kph); Maximum Cruising Speed (Max Transit Speed) at optimum altitude 475 kts (547 mph, 880 kph); Economical Cruising Speed (Econ Transit Speed) at optimum altitude 425 kts (490 mph, 787 kph); Patrol Speed 200 kts (230 mph, 370 kph) on 2 engines; Service ceiling 42,000 ft (12,800 m); Ferry Range 5,000 nm (5,758 miles, 9266 km); Maximum Endurance 15 hours 0 minutes on internal fuel, Typical Endurance 12 hrs 0 minutes.
Armament: Up to 9 Mk 44 or Mk 46 or Marconi Stingray homing torpedoes, mines, depth charges, 1000 lb (454 kg) bombs in internal weapons bay + 4 optional under wing pylons for 4 AIM-9L Sidewinder air-air missiles or two AGM-84 Harpoon or Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles

* With extra fuel in removable bomb-bay tanks.

Hawker Siddeley Nimrod R.Mk 1 – as for MR.Mk 1 & MR.2 except:
Accomodation: 3 flight crew + up to 28 sensor operators
Dimensions: Length 118 ft 0 in (35.97 m) excluding probe, 119 ft 9 in (36.50 m) over IFR probe
Weights: No published information
Performance: No published information
British Aerospace Nimrod AEW.Mk 3
Accomodation: Four flight crew + tactical team of 6
Dimensions: Length 137 ft 8.5 in (41.97 m); Height 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m); Wing Span 115 ft 1 in (35.08 m); Wing Area 2,121 sq ft (197.05 sq m)
Engines: Four Rolls-Royce RB.168-20 Spey Mk 250 or Mk 251 turbojets rated at 12,140 lb st (54.00 kN) dry
Weights: “Empty 86,000 lb (39,010 kg)”; Maximum Take-off 187,800 lb (85,185 kg)
Performance: Cruising Speed 350 mph (563 kph); Endurance 10+ hours.
BAE SYSTEMS Nimrod MRA.Mk 4
Accomodation: Two flight crew + 8 sensor operators
Dimensions: Length 126 ft 9 in (38.63 m); Height 30 ft 6 in (9.29 m); Wing Span 127 ft 0 in (38.71 m); Wing Area 2,538 sq ft (235.8 sq m)
Engines: Four BMW Rolls-Royce BR710-48 turbofans rated at 15,500 lbf (68.97 kN) each
Weights: Basic Empty 112,765 lb (51,150 kg); Maximum Take-off 234,165 lb (106,217 kg); Maximum Payload 12,000+ lb (5,455+ kg)
Performance: Maximum Speed Mach 0.77; Service ceiling 42,000 ft (12,800 m); Range (unrefuelled) 6,000+ nautical miles (6,909 miles, 11,119 km); Endurance 14+ hours.
Armament: Up to 9 Stingray torpedoes, 6 Harpoon anti-ship missiles (4 on wing pylons + 2 in bomb bay) and mines
MR.2 XV252 in 1987 with ESM pods but no
IFR probe. (photo, Keith McKenzie)
Aerodynamic prototype AEW.3 XZ286
(photo, BAE SYSTEMS)

Production

Design Centre

Head of Design Team: (Not known)
Design Offices: Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd*, Chadderton, Greengate, Middleton, Manchester, M24 1SA

Manufacture

Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd*
(Manchester Division, Woodford Aerodrome, Chester Road, Woodford, Cheshire, FK7 1QR)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
HS.801 prototypes (2 conv.) Chester 1964-July 1967
Nimrod MR.1 38 Woodford 1967-Aug 1972
Nimrod R.1 3 Woodford 1970-1973
Nimrod MR.1 8 Woodford 1973-1975
Nimrod MR.2 (35 conv.) Woodford 1978-mid 1984
Nimrod AEW.3 (11 conv.) Woodford 1979-1984
Nimrod R.1 (1 conv.) Woodford Oct 1995-Dec 1996
Nimrod MRA.4 (12 conv.) Woodford Feb 1997-2012
Total: 49    

* later British Aerospace, then BAE SYSTEMS.

Total Produced: 49 a/c (all variants)
(MRA.4: Wings built by Airbus UK at Broughton, Flintshire – formerly the Hawker Siddeley Chester factory)

Production List

Comet
* Comet & Nimrod production list

First prototype MRA.4 ZJ516 being prepared
for flight testing. (photo, BAE SYSTEMS)
ZJ516 makes it’s first flight – note enlarged
engine intakes. (photo, BAE SYSTEMS)

More Information

Books

‘British Aerospace Nimrod – Modern Combat Aircraft No.24’
by John Chartres
Ian Allan, UK, April 1986   ISBN: 0711015759
* Complete history of the Nimrod up until 1985.

‘The Comet and Nimrod – Images of Aviation’ [Order this book from UK]
by Ray Williams
Tempus Publishing, UK, August 2000    ISBN: 0752417525
* Concise pictorial history of the Comet and Nimrod in well captioned b+w photos.

Magazines

Air Enthusiast December 1973
* Nimrod MR.1 feature article
Air International March 1978
* Nimrod AEW.3 feature article
Air International August 1980
* Nimrod AEW.3 update article
Air International July 1981
* Nimrod MR.2 feature article
Air International April 1983
* Nimrod in Falklands War feature article
Air International July 2001
* Nimrod R.1 feature article
Air International July 2002
* Nimrod MRA.4 feature article
Air Forces Monthly October 2004
* Nimrod at war feature article

Links

Airliners.net
* 16 pages of excellent Nimrod photos

The Martin Painter DH106 Comet web site
* includes Nimrod information

Spyflight BAe Nimrod R Mk 1
* Good detailed account of the R.1

Spyflight BAe Nimrod AEW 3
* Excellent critical summary of the AEW.3 story

Spyflight BAe Nimrod MRA4
* Well written summary of the MRA.4 story to 2003

Target Lock British Aerospace Nimrod
* Good profile of the Nimrod

British Aerospace Nimrod R1
* RAF Waddington Nimrod R.Mk 1 photos

Defence Projects Nimrod MRA4
* Official MoD data on the MRA.4

BAE Nimrod
* Wikipedia entry for the Nimrod

Defence Procurement Agency – Nimrod Web Site
* Useful programme data on the MRA.4 – horrible website navigation

Nimrod ‘The Mighty Hunter’
* RAF Kinloss: Very good history of the MR.2

Shop

Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
To be added.

Videos:

‘Nimrod – A tribute to the first jet powered sub hunter killer’ [Order this video from UK]
Catalogue Number: 82586
* History of the Nimrod up until 1986.
‘Hawker Siddeley Nimrod’ [Order this video from UK]
Castle Home Video  Catalogue Number: CHV2183
* History of the Nimrod up until 1994.

British Aerospace Sea Harrier

Aircraft Profile
Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2 ZH797 seen over Yeovilton
in June 2005. (photo, Kjc Photography)

Development

Famous for its key role in the Falklands War, the Sea Harrier formed an integral part of Royal Navy fleet air defence from 1981 onwards. After the Falklands War, a Mid-Life Update in the 1990s gave it a new lease of life as a formidable Beyond Visual Range interceptor. The last all-British fighter in service, it’s premature retirement in March 2006 creates a gap in operational capabilities which will leave the Royal Navy without dedicated fighter cover for many years.

In 1966 the first of the Royal Navy’s next generation fixed-wing aircraft carriers, the CVA-01, was cancelled by the Labour government. At this time the Royal Navy had two aircraft carriers in service, HMS Ark Royal and HMS Eagle, both of which were expected to end their useful sea life during the 1970s. The Phantoms and Buccaneers, which the Navy had ordered to fly from its carriers, would then have to be passed to the RAF. In future, Royal Navy operations in the North Atlantic and North Sea would have to rely on land-based air cover.

Reluctant to accept this situation, in the late 1960s the Admiralty started planning a new class of ship, called Anti-Submarine Cruisers or ‘through-deck’ cruisers, which would carry a small helicopter squadron of 9 or so machines. The small size of the ships, about one-third the tonnage of the CVA-01, would certainly make then affordable. In 1969 the Harrier GR.Mk 1 entered service with the RAF, and in the same year the Admiralty began internal studies of a navalised Harrier. It was soon clear that the V/STOL (Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing) Harrier would be able to operate from a small carrier deck without the need for any catapult or arrester gear. The idea of adding a multi-role version of the Harrier to the small air wing aboard these new ships quickly gained ground.

The aircraft was expected to combine three roles: air interception of long range maritime patrol and ship-based attack aircraft, reconnaissance and sea search, and strike/ground attack against ships and shore targets. Strike in this context meant delivery of a nuclear weapon.

In 1972 Hawker Siddeley at Kingston upon Thames were contracted to study a minimum-change naval derivative of the Harrier GR.Mk 3, to keep costs down. A new forward fuselage was designed, seating the pilot higher to provide space for extra avionics under the cockpit floor and also more room for cockpit controls and displays. The nose would house a low-cost multi-mode radar called Blue Fox, derived from the Ferranti Seaspray used in the Westland Lynx helicopter, while the raised cockpit also gave the pilot a better view. A digital nav/attack system tailored to maritime deployment from ships was introduced, and a different weapons fit developed. Some material changes to the airframe and engine were also proposed to improve sea air corrosion resistance.

In April 1973, the first of the new Anti-Submarine cruisers (HMS Invincible) was ordered from Vickers Shipyard. In the same year, Ferranti was instructed to proceed with development of the Blue Fox radar, and Rolls-Royce began work on the Pegasus Mk 104 engine.

In May 1975 Hawker Siddeley received a contract to proceed with airframe development and an order for 24 Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1s was announced. The designation indicating the triple roles of Fighter, Reconnaissance and Strike. A further ten were ordered later, bringing the total to 34. The first Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1 (XZ450) made its maiden flight at Dunsfold on 20 August 1978, followed by three pre-production aircraft fitted with test instrumentation for development flying (XZ438-XZ440). Deliveries to RNAS Yeovilton began on 18 June 1979 with XZ451 being the first to join the Intensive Flying Trials Unit (IFTU), No.700A Squadron.

In late 1978 the Indian Navy made the decision to purchase the Sea Harrier, signing a contract in December 1979 for six single-seaters designated Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 51 and two Harrier trainers. The Indian aircraft differed only in having MATRA R.550 Magic instead of Sidewinder missiles, gaseous oxygen in place of liquid oxygen and minor avionics changes. The first Indian aircraft made it’s maiden flight on 6 August 1982 and deliveries commenced at the end of that year. Two additional batches were subsequently acquired, bringing the total to 23 single-seaters, and these aircraft regularly operate from the carriers Vikrant and Viraat (ex HMS Hermes).

At the end of March 1980 the Royal Navy Sea Harrier IFTU was redesignated No.899 Sqn, becoming a Headquarters Squadron performing operational training duties, and at the same time No.800 Sqn, the first operational squadron, was formed. No.800 Sqn served briefly on HMS Invincible before transferring to HMS Hermes, an old anti-submarine/command carrier. In January 1981 a second operational unit, No.801 Sqn was commissioned to serve aboard the Invincible.

A unique feature of Sea Harrier operations at the time was its ability to launch from a ‘ski-jump’, a ramp fitted in the bow of the ship. First conceived of by a Royal Navy engineering officer, Lt Cdr DR Taylor, placing an inclined ramp at the end of the take-off run launched an aircraft into an upward ballistic trajectory and allowed heavier take-off weights to be flown than would be possible from a flat deck. Flight tests of a prototype ski-jump at RAE Bedford from August 1977, using a development Harrier GR.3, clearly showed that the theoretical benefits would be realised in practice. In September 1977 the Admiralty decided to fit a ski-jump on HMS Invincible, and in 1979 a similar ramp was fitted to Hermes.

On 2 April 1982 the military dictatorship in Argentina launched an invasion of the Falkland Islands, to divert attention away from pressing domestic difficulties. Three days later a British carrier battle group sailed from Portsmouth, with a total of twenty Sea Harriers aboard Invincible and Hermes. Whilst on the way, a cache of the latest all-aspect version of the Sidewinder air-air missile, the AIM-9L, was obtained from the USA and flown out to the carriers. The Falkland Islands lay within 600 miles (966 km) of three major Argentinian airbases and the Sea Harriers would thus be vital in protecting the fleet from enemy air attack. The conflict opened in earnest for the Sea Harriers on 1 May with dawn air attacks on the occupied airfields at Port Stanley and Goose Green. No aircraft were lost. That afternoon Flt Lt Paul Barton of No.801 Sqn (an RAF pilot on an exchange tour) shot down a Mirage 5 with an AIM-9L, scoring the first kill of the conflict and the first for the Sea Harrier. The limited number of fighters available could not provide a complete defensive screen, but the extremely high serviceability of the aircraft, often flying in conditions which would have grounded conventional aircraft, severely disrupted enemy air operations. Over the 7 week campaign the Sea Harriers achieved 23 air-air kills in air-air combat for no loss. During the entire war, only two Sea Harriers were lost to ground fire and five more to flying accidents. The humiliating loss of the Falklands War brought about the fall of the military government in Argentina, and the country has been a free democracy ever since.

After the conflict, seven replacement and 17 additional Sea Harriers were ordered. 190 Imp gal (865 litre) drop tanks were introduced to improve endurance and twin Sidewinder launch rails were fitted. The Sea Eagle anti-shipping missile was also cleared for use. The remaining two Invincible-class carriers, Illustrious and Ark Royal now entered service as Hermes was retired.

At around the same time, it was becoming clear that increasing Soviet carrier air power was beginning to outclass existing Sea Harrier capabilities. Accordingly, a programme was launched to develop the Sea Harrier into a more capable interceptor, while retaining it’s existing strike/attack and reconnaissance capabilities. Known as the Mid-Life Update (MLU), the resulting aircraft was initially designated FRS.Mk 2. In January 1985 British Aerospace received a contract for the project definition phase and conversion of two aircraft to Mk 2 standard. Initial plans anticipated upgrading the entire Sea Harrier fleet, and included more extensive changes, such as wingtip missile rails, but the scope was cut back to rein-in costs. The actual changes incorporated into the aircraft comprised a stretched fuselage with a 13.75 inch (35 cm) plug inserted aft of the wing, a re-contoured nose cone to house a Blue Vixen advanced multi-mode pulse-doppler radar, an improved Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), carriage of AIM-120 AMRAAM Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, and various aerodynamic tweaks including kinking the wing leading edge and moving the dogtooth further towards the root. Other changes included a revised cockpit with new multi-function CRT ‘glass cockpit’ displays and HOTAS controls to reduce pilot workload, and also Pegasus Mk 106 engines – a navalised version of the Mk 105 fitted to the AV-8B.

The first of two prototype conversions flew on 19 September 1988. On 7 December 1988 a contract was awarded for the conversion of 29 Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1 to Mk 2 standard (including the two development aircraft). In January 1994 an order for 18 new-build Sea Harrier Mk 2 and 5 additional Sea Harrier conversions was placed, bringing the total for the Mk 2 to 52 aircraft. Carrier qualification trials were successfully completed in November 1990 aboard HMS Ark Royal.

During 1993 and 1994 the Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1 returned to combat operations, flying a three tours in support of Operation ‘Deny Flight’ over Bosnia. Unfortunately, one aircraft was lost to a SA-7 missile during this period. The pilot ejected and was later picked up.

Meanwhile, a series of live firings of the AIM-120 missile from the second development FRS.Mk 2 prototype (XZ439) commenced on 29 March 1993 at Elgin AFB in the USA. In June 1993 an Operational Evaluation Unit (OEU) was formed at Boscombe Down as an off-shoot of No.899 Sqn, to take the aircraft into service. In May 1994 the official designation was changed to Sea Harrier F/A.Mk 2 – indicating a dual Fighter/Attack role. The replacement of ‘Strike’ by ‘Attack’ indicated the formal abandonment of nuclear weapons delivery as an operational role. In September 1994 the F/A.Mk 2 undertook its first operational deployment when four aircraft from the OEU joined HMS Invincible. The F/A.Mk 2 finally replaced the Mk 1 in March 1995 when the last Mk 1 was withdrawn from service. Operation ‘Deliberate Force’ in 1995 saw Sea Harriers once again flying combat operations over Bosnia. In March 1995 the unusual ‘/’ in the official designation was dropped, becoming Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2. The last new build Sea Harrier was handed over in January 1999.

The 1998 Strategic Defence Review included a commitment to consolidate the Royal Navy and RAF Harrier squadrons under a unified command, initially known as Joint Force 2000, (later Joint Force Harrier), to facilitate joint operations of the attack-optimised RAF Harriers and fighter-optimised Navy Sea Harriers, both on land and at sea. Joint Force Harrier was subsequently formed on 1 April 2000. The first challenge for this new organisation came in May 2000 when HMS Illustrious deployed as part of a British military force tasked with restoring order in war ravaged Sierra Leone. The Sea Harriers provided air support to British ground forces and maintained a very visible deterrent to potential troublemakers.

Considering it’s versatility and proven ability, exports of the Sea Harrier were to prove rather disappointing. Potential sales to the Australian and Italian Navies came to nothing, and an FA.Mk 2-style upgrade for India was abandoned in favour of devoting more funding to the navalised LCA.

Very soon after entering service the Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2 had begun to acquire a reputation as an outstanding fighter. Thanks to its small size, agility and versatility it was rated by some as the world’s best air combat aircraft. Equipped with an excellent look-down/shoot-down radar and a good BVR missile the Royal Navy had evolved an aircraft which could challenge any fighter then in service. Unfortunately, operations in warmer climates off Africa and in the Middle East had highlighted a sharp drop-off in hover performance with the Mk 106 engine in high air temperatures. This effectively limited the aircraft’s use in hot climates to certain times of the year. With the huge increase in demand for ‘out of area’ operations since 1990, this lack of power was becoming a big handicap. A study to investigate installation of the more powerful Pegasus Mk 107 engine (fitted to late production Harrier GR.Mk 7s) found that significant and expensive structural changes would be required to accommodate the engine.

On 28 February 2002 it was announced that the Sea Harrier would be retired, and that Joint Force Harrier would ‘migrate’ to the Harrier GR.Mk 7 and 9 until replacement by the Future Joint Combat Aircraft (Lockheed-Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) in about 2012. On 28 March 2006 the Sea Harrier was formally withdrawn from Royal Navy service when No.801 Sqn decommissioned at RNAS Yeovilton. After nearly 27 years of Sea Harrier service, carrier-based fixed-wing aviation would now only be provided by joint RAF-RN squadrons operating the non-radar equipped ground-attack Harrier.

The premature retirement of the Sea Harrier (the youngest airframe was less than 8 years old) is a calculated risk that leaves a yawning gap in fleet air defence until the F-35 finally arrives. As the F-35 programme slips beyond 2012 and new Type 45 anti-aircraft Destroyers are due even later, the Royal Navy has entered a critical period where it is entirely dependent upon it’s allies to provide outer layer air defence. From the South Atlantic to the Adriatic, and beyond, the Sea Harrier has been the fleet’s first line of defence. Now only the Indian Navy continues to fly the type.

FRS.Mk 1 XZ451 of 700A Sqn in August 1979.
(photo, Micheal J Freer)
FRS.Mk 1 XZ454 of 800 Sqn seen at
Farnborough ’80. (photo, Mick Bajcar)

Variants

Requirement Specification:
Manufacturers Designation: P.1184

Development History:
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1 Initial production version. Navalised multi-role version of Harrier with new forward fuselage and revised avionics. Blue Fox radar in conical nose radome. Pitot probe on nose.
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 2 Initial designation for Mk 2 variant after Mid-Life Update. (Used January 1985-May 1994).
Sea Harrier F/A.Mk 2 Interim designation for Mk 2 variant. (Used May 1994-March 1995).
Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2 Upgraded version with stretched fuselage, Blue Vixen radar in larger revised radome. Pitot probe on fin. Improved avionics and AIM-120 AAMs.
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 51 Export version of FRS.Mk 1 for Indian Navy. Matra 550 Magic AAMs replace Sidewinders, gaseous oxygen in place of LOX, modified avionics fit.
FRS.Mk 1 ZD578 seen at Yeovilton in July 1992.
(photo, Joop de Groot-CRMAP)
FRS.Mk 1 ZD610 of 899 Sqn at Hurn in 1990.
(photo, Tim Beach)

History

Key Dates:
8 Feb 1963    P.1127 lands aboard HMS Ark Royal
early 1970s    Initial proposals for naval Harrier variant
15 May 1975    Sea Harrier programme first announced. Order for 24 FRS.Mk 1 placed
May 1978    Order for 10 more FRS.Mk 1
20 August 1978    First flight of first production FRS.Mk 1 (XZ450)
18 June 1979    FRS.Mk 1 enters Royal Navy service
19 September 1979    700A Squadron commissioned
24 October 1979    Sea trials aboard HMS Hermes commence
Dec 1979    Indian Navy orders Sea Harriers
31 March 1980    700A Sqn redesignated 899 Sqn & 800 Sqn established
28 January 1981    801 Sqn commissioned
26 February 1981    Ski-jump at RNAS Yeovilton becomes operational
June 1981    800 Sqn embarks on HMS Hermes for the first time
1 May 1982    First air-to-air victory scored during Falklands War
6 August 1982    First flight of export FRS.Mk 51 for Indian Navy
22 December 1982    First aircraft delivered to Indian Navy (IN601)
January 1985    BAe awarded contract for project definition and 2 conversions to Mk 2 standard
19 September 1988    Maiden flight of FRS.Mk 2 aerodynamic development aircraft (ZA195)
7 December 1988    BAe receives contract to upgrade 29 FRS.Mk 1 to Mk 2 standard (inc. the 2 development aircraft)
8 March 1989    First flight of second FRS.Mk 2 development aircraft (XZ439)
7 November 1990    First carrier landing by a Mk 2, on Ark Royal
24 May 1990    First Sea Harrier flight with Blue Vixen radar fitted
29 March 1993    First AMRAAM air-air missile fired from a Mk 2
22 April 1993    First F/A.Mk 2 conversion for service handed over to Royal Navy at Dunsfold (XZ497)
1 June 1993    FA.Mk 2 Operational Evaluation Unit (899 Sqn) established at Boscombe Down
21 June 1993    First production Mk 2 delivered to 899 Sqn (XZ497)
January 1994    MoD orders 5 additional Mk 2 conversions & 18 new build aircraft
24 August 1994    4 Mk 2 aircraft from 899 Sqn deployed to HMS Invincible for use over Bosnia – first operational deployment
26 January 1995    801 Sqn deploys aboard HMS Illustrious
20 October 1995    First new build Mk 2 delivered (ZH796)
3 July 1996    Award of contract to install IN/GPS in Royal Navy Sea Harriers
April 1998    First flight of Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2 with IN/GPS upgrade
September 1998    Start of ship trials for IN/GPS upgrade
18 January 1999    Last new build FA.Mk 2 delivered to Royal Navy (ZH813)
28 March 2006    Sea Harrier retired from squadron service with Royal Navy
2010    Projected retirement date for Indian Navy Sea Harriers
Indian Navy FRS.Mk 51 IN607 at Yelahanka in
February 2005. (photo, Jagan Pillarisetti)
Indian Navy FRS.Mk 51 IN601/G-9-478 seen at
Farnborough ’82. (photo, Derek Ferguson)

Operators

Military Operators

India – Indian Navy (FRS.Mk 51: 1 sqn)
UK – Royal Navy (FRS.Mk 1: 4* sqns + Trials unit; FA.Mk 2: 3 sqns)

Government Agencies

UK – DERA Boscombe Down (A few on loan for test duties)

Civilian Operators

None

* One squadron was a temporary unit for the Falklands War.

Specifications

British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1
Role: Single-seat shipboard fighter, reconnaissance and strike/attack aircraft
Crew: 1
Dimensions: Length 47 ft 7 in (14.50 m); Height 12 ft 2 in (3.71 m); Wing Span 25 ft 3 in (7.70 m); Wing Area 202.1 sq ft (18.68 sq m)
Engine(s): One Rolls-Royce Pegasus Mk 104 vectored thrust turbofan of 21,500 lb (9752 kg) st.
Weights: Operating Empty 13,444 lb (6098 kg); Maximum Take-off 26,200 lb (11,884 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed Mach 0.97 (639 kts, 736 mph, 1185 kph) at sea level; Cruising speed Mach 0.80 (459 kts, 528 mph, 850 kph) at 36,000 ft (10,975 m); Initial rate of climb 50,000 ft/min (15240 m/min); Service ceiling 51,000 ft (15,545 m); Combat Radius 400 nm (460 mls, 741 km) on hi-hi-hi interception mission with 4 AAMs, 300 nm (345 mls, 556 km) on hi-lo-hi attack mission.
Armament: Underfuselage mounts for two 30-mm ADEN cannon in pods with 150 rpg, one centreline and four underwing hardpoints for up to 8000 lb (3628 kg) for STO and 5000 lb (2268) for VTO. Normal loading – underfuselage and inner wing pylons 2000 lb (907 kg) each, outer wing pylons 650 lb (295 kg) each. Cleared to carry WE177 free-fall nuclear bomb, 1000 lb (454 kg) HE bombs, BAe Sea Eagle ASM, AGM-84 Harpoon ASM etc. Air-to-air armament includes 4 AIM-9L Sidewinders on twin-rail launcher, or MATRA R.550 Magic on Indian Navy aircraft.
British Aerospace Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2
Role: Single-seat shipboard fighter/attack aircraft
Crew: 1
Dimensions: Length 46 ft 6 in (14.17 m); Height 12 ft 2 in (3.71 m); Wing Span 25 ft 3 in (7.70 m); Wing Area 202.1 sq ft (18.68 sq m)
Engine(s): One Rolls-Royce Pegasus Mk 106 vectored thrust turbofan of 21,750 lb (9865 kg) st.
Weights: Operating Empty 14,510 lb (6580 kg); Maximum Take-off 26,200 lb (11,884 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed Mach 0.97 (639 kts, 736 mph, 1185 kph) at sea level; Cruising speed Mach 0.80 (459 kts, 528 mph, 850 kph) at 36,000 ft (10,975 m); Initial rate of climb 50,000 ft/min (15240 m/min); Service ceiling 51,000 ft (15,545 m); Combat Radius 400 nm (460 mls, 741 km) on hi-hi-hi interception mission with 4 AAMs, 300 nm (345 mls, 556 km) on hi-lo-hi attack mission.
Armament: Underfuselage mounts for two 30-mm ADEN cannon in pods with 120 rpg, one centreline and four underwing hardpoints for up to 8500 lb (3856 kg) for STO and 5000 lb (2268) for VTO. Normal loading – underfuselage and inner wing pylons 2000 lb (907 kg) each, outer wing pylons 1000 lb (454 kg) each. Cleared to carry WE177 free-fall nuclear bomb, 1000 lb (454 kg) HE bombs, BAe Sea Eagle ASM, AGM-84 Harpoon ASM, BAe ALARM ARM etc. Air-to-air armament includes 4 AIM-120 AMRAAM on fuselage and outer wing pylons, or 4 AIM-9L Sidewinders on twin-rail launchers.
FA.Mk 2 ZH811 during the decommissioning of
801 Sqn, 28 March 2006. (photo, K Chilton)
FA.Mk 2 ZH800 of 899 Sqn seen in September
2003. (photo, Neil Dunridge-AirTeamImages)

Production

Design Centre

Head of Design Team: ?
Chief Engineer: Ralph Hooper
Deputy Chief Engineer: John Fozard
Project Designer: ?
Design Office: Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd, Kingston upon Thames, London (later British Aerospace plc).

Manufacture

Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd (later British Aerospace plc)
(Dunsfold Aerodrome, Godalming, Surrey, GU8 4BS, UK)
Version Quantity Assembly Location* Time Period Order Date
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1 24 Dunsfold 1979-1981 May 1975
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1 10 Dunsfold 1981-1982 May 1978
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1 14 Dunsfold 1984-1986 July 1982
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1 9 Dunsfold 1986-1988 Sept 1984
FRS.Mk 1 Total: 57      
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 51 6 Dunsfold 1982-Aug 1984 Dec 1979
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 51 10 Dunsfold 1989-Sep 1991 Nov 1985
Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 51 7 Dunsfold 1990-1992 Oct 1986
FRS.Mk 51 Total: 23      
Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2 (2 conv.) Dunsfold 1987-Mar 1989 Jan 1985
Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2 (27 conv.) Dunsfold 1992-1996 Dec 1988
Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2 (5 conv.) Dunsfold 1996-Nov 1997 Jan 1994
Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2 18 Dunsfold 1995-Jan 1999 Jan 1994
FA.Mk 2 Total: 18+34 conv.      

Total Produced: 98 a/c (All variants)
* Conversion and manufacturing carried out at BAe Kingston-upon-Thames and BAe Brough, East Yorkshire.

Production List

‘Fleet Air Arm Fixed-Wing Aircraft Since 1945’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Ray Sturtivant with Mick Burrow & Lee Howard
Published by Air-Britain, June 2004 ISBN: 0851302831
* Includes arguably the most accurate individual airframe histories for the Sea Harrier.

More Information

Books

‘Sea Harrier – The Last All-British Fighter’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Jamie Hunter
Published by Midland Publishing, 15 March 2005 ISBN: 1857802071
* Very well illustrated history of the development and use of the Sea Harrier. Many colour photos.

‘Sea Harrier Over The Falklands – A Maverick at War’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Commander ‘Sharkey’ Ward
Published by Cassell Military, 9 March 2006 ISBN: 0304355429
* First-hand account of the Falklands Air War by the CO of 801 Sqn.

‘Sea Harrier: Aeroguide 32 – BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1/FA Mk.2’
by –
Published by Ad Hoc Publications, May 2006 ISBN: 0946958440
* Modellers guide with good close-up photos and markings details.

‘The Sharp End: Sea Harrier Front Line Operations’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Neil Mercer
Published by Airlife Publishing Ltd, Nov 1995 ISBN: 1853105449
* Pictorial history with individual aircraft histories listing

Topshots 20: Sea Harrier FA2
by Albert Osinki
Published by Kagero, 2005 ISBN: 83 89088 932
* All-colour pictorial, with many close-up photos.

‘World Air Power Journal Volume 41 Summer 2000’
Published by Aerospace Publishing, 2000 ISBN: 1 86184 047 0 (pb)/ 1 86184 048 9 (hb)
* Includes comprehensive 42-page feature on the Sea Harrier.

Magazines

To be added.

Links

Wikipedia: BAE Sea Harrier
* Brief history, variants and specification

Target Lock: Sea Harrier
* Good profile with history, specification, photos, news etc

BAe SEA HARRIER FRS Mk.51 / T Mk.60
* History, specifications and serial numbers for Indian Navy Sea Harriers

First Generation Harriers/Sea Harrier
* Good profile with history and specifications

Target Aviation Photography: RNAS Yeovilton
* Photo report of visit to RNAS Yeovilton in April 2005.

Royal Navy Multimedia Centre
* 5 pages of official Royal Navy Sea Harrier photos

airliners.net
* 37 pages of excellent Sea Harrier photos

jetphotos.net
* 20 pages of Sea Harrier photos – all but one of FA.2s

Sea Harrier Down Under
* Royal Australian Navy interest in Sea Harrier during 1970s-1980s

Hawker Siddeley Sea Harrier
* 2:53 video of 4-ship Sea Harrier demo at RIAT 2005

Shop

Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
See the Aeroguide title listed above.

Videos:

To be added.