January 2014

2014 JanuaryHawker Siddeley AV-8A Harrier

In the 1960s, an extremely close collaboration between two British companies, Hawker Aircraft and the Bristol Engine Company, resulted in the first operational jet-lift VTOL aircraft, the Harrier GR.1. The gestation period was lengthy but ultimately successful, with the first production airplane flying in 1967. Part of the development had involved a tripartite squadron operating the Harrier’s preproduction predecessor, the Kestrel, and evaluation testing of this airplane in the US as the XV-6A. In 1968, the Marine Corps sent three officers to the Farnborough Air Show with the objective of informally evaluating the Harrier itself for use as a close-air support airplane. Since it is was not dependent on runways, it could be operated like a helicopter from amphibious assault ships and relatively unprepared expeditionary fields close to the Marines needing air support, providing quick reaction and short turnarounds. The flight evaluation by then Col Thomas Miller Jr. and LtCol Clarence Baker provided the confidence that the Harrier could be modified to meet Marine Corps requirements. All that was necessary then was to sell the program to the Naval Air Systems Command, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Congress. The first AV-8A flew on 20 November 1970.

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2014 History Calendar Index