Harrier II at 40

Prototype AV-8B Harrier II pictured in front of a hangar at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, Missouri. Offering double the payload and combat radius of its predecessor, the AV-8B made its maiden flight on 9 November 1978, some 40 years ago today.

The above model was one of two generations and six main variants of the “jump jet” produced between the prototype Hawker Siddeley P.1127 first flew in 1960 and the Harrier II ended production in 1997. With less than 900 of all types produced, a Harrier in any condition is a rare bird indeed.

early Harrier Kestrel

While Harriers once served with the Indian Navy, Italian Navy, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Royal Thai Navy, Royal Spanish Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, just the Corps (124) and the Italians (30) still operate late-model aircraft refurbished in the 2000’s.

A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166 sits on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) in the Arabian Sea Oct. 20, 2013. The Boxer was underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Michael Schwartz, U.S. Navy/Released)

They are expected to be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II within the next decade.

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