Hawkers at Kingston, in Surrey, built the first generation Harriers, including 106 AV
-8A's, later a batch of Twin seaters, for the USMC
Under the skin, the AV
-8A's dispensed with some of the attack avionics of the RAF models, the USMC
were more interested in simplicity, for operation from assault ships, then prepared strips in land.
Whereas the RAF force were commited to low level close support, in Germany, with the associated weather conditions.
-8A's were wired for AIM-9's, which the RAF force would not have until No.1 Sqn was deployed to the Falklands, to supplement the Sea Harrier's. Though in the event, much lower than expected attrition rate for the Sea Harriers, allowed the RAF force to concentrate on attack, in turn allowing the Sea Harriers to stick to air defence.
From the start of US acceptence of the type, MDD and Hawkers studied improved version, jointly as well as each company considering independant projects.
A joint proposal, the AV
-16, looked to provide a bi-national solution for the USMC
, RAF, RN
maybe even the USN
if the mooted 'Sea Control' ships were built.
But the economic upheavals of the period, caused the UK, then the US, to cancel the project, in 1973.
This pushed the RN
to order a maritime version, based on the P.1127 platform, but with many structural, equipment-including radar, changes.
-16 was dead, and they wanted a developed Naval Harrier of some kind.
So the Sea Harrier was the quickest way to get this,
A few years later, independantly, the two companies again looked to the future, MDD basically refined the AV
-16 further, Hawkers looked closely at fitting a new, bigger wing, to new build versions very similar to what MDD were now calling the AV
-8B, RAF GR
.3's and RN
After funding/political delays, the USMC
started getting it's much more capable AV
-8B's in 1982/3.
In 1981, a BAe version of the AV
-8B, was picked for the RAF, with changes in avionics, (again, the RAF specified sophisticated gear for low level attack, including night attack, as well as a complex, comprehensive 'Zeus' ECM system), a strengthened canopy (more bird strikes at low level), extra small wing pylons just for AIM-9L's.
It was probably a mistake to upgrade the original first generation based Sea Harriers to FA
.2 standard, and produce new builds, with the powerful Blue Vixen Radar and AMRAAM in the 1990's.
It would have been much better to put this capability into a Harrier II
platform (what BAe and MDD called AV
.5 and 7), since the 2nd generation models were much easier to adapt for engine growth, as the UK examples are getting now, and generally a more 'growth orientated' platform, unlike the 'squeeze it all in' Sea Harrier platform.
Such an aircraft would have been comparable the the AV
-8B+ standard with the APG-65 radar, as some USMC
, plus the Spanish and Italian AV
-8B's have been upgraded to.
For what was originally an experimental aircraft, the P.1127, for the big, supersonic, expensive, probably impractical P.1154, the Harrier family has been a remarkable story.
When P.1154 was cancelled in 1965, the P.1127 was adapted, to some RAF reluctance, as an interim, simpler, more practical, soon to be deployed, low level close support aircraft. In RAF service from 1969.
Not until combat in the most difficult of situations, 8000 miles form home in 1982, was the Harrier taken seriously by the majority, since many saw it as an expensive novelty before, not really a serious combat aircraft.