Tag Archives: Harrier USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62)

Plumbing the Archives (and finding some gems!)

While I spend a lot of time digging through various archives, a new one is proving interesting. While the Associated Press’s video news archive on YouTube has been around since 2015 and has chalked up over 2 billion views, it is normally ho-hum at best, simply reposting the latest Hollywood gossip or political talking head that aired three days ago.

However, they have been blitzing the channel almost every morning for the past couple of weeks with some great short clips from the 1960s and 70s.

Among the more interesting gems I’ve noticed popping up lately (and getting single-digit views no less!):

The very early XV-6A (P1127) Harrier prototypes doing landing tests on the supercarrier USS Independence (CV-62) in June 1966.

An XB-70A Valkyrie prototype (#AV-2) crash out of Edwards AFB in the same month, featuring amazing footage of both AV-1 and AV-2 in flight.

The newly-commissioned (and soon to be tragically lost) Skipjack-class nuclear-powered submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) cruising on the surface.

A May 1974 clip of the amphibious assault ships USS Inchon (LPH-12) and Iwo Jima (LPH-2) in the Suez operating RH-53D minesweeper birds of HM-12 in an effort to clear the canal of mines sown in the Yom Kippur War, including a shot of Iwo with no less than seven big Sikorsky’s on her deck. The TF65 (Operation Nimbus Star) mission saw HM-12 sweep some 7,600 linear miles in about 500 hours of on-station time.

B-52 Strat carpet bombings in the jungle outside of Saigon in Nov. 1965, with fighter escort from an F-100 Super Sabre.

Israeli self-propelled artillery guns of the Yom Kippur War era including rare Soltam L-33 Ro’ems which were M4 Sherman tanks modded with a huge hull and a 155mm L/33 howitzer.

April 1978 clip of white-painted UN-marked French Panhard armored cars (including some 90mm gun-armed variants) rolling off an LST into Beirut

And a longer August 1978 piece on the Panavia Tornado– likely early prototype XX946– in tests with the RAF, including some great low-level passes at MOD Boscombe Down. Keep in mind that the RAF only accepted their first two production Tornado in July 1980.

Remember the XV-6A?

While the U.S. Marine Corps would not take delivery of their first AV-8A Harriers until January 1971, over a decade had elapsed since the original Hawker P.1127 prototype first hovered in tethered flight (21 October 1960) and much ground had been covered in between.

Hawker P1127 made the first-ever vertical landing by a jet aircraft an a carrier at sea on HMS Ark Royal in February 1963. IWM A 34711

In fact, the U.S. Army, Navy, USAF, and Marines formed a joint evaluation squadron and tested a half-dozen early Harriers at sea and ashore as early as 1966, all with the idea of using the aircraft for close air support. 

We are talking about the Hawker Siddeley XV-6A Kestrel.

XV-6A aircraft in flight during evaluation test operations, May 1966. USN 1115755-A

XV-6A vertical lift off of aircraft from the deck of the USS RALEIGH (LPD-1), May 1966. USN 1115757

XV-6A aircraft lifts off flight deck of USS RALEIGH (LPD-1) during evaluation operations at sea, May 1966. USN 1115763

XV-6A aircraft touches down on board the supercarrier USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62) during evaluation operations, May 1966. USN 1115758-C

As noted by the NHHC: 

The 1957 design for the Hawker P.1127 was based on a French engine concept, adopted and improved upon by the British. The project was funded by the British Bristol Engine Co. and by the U.S. Government through the Mutual Weapons Development Program.

With the basic configuration of the engine largely determined and with development work under way, Hawker Aircraft Ltd. engineers directed their attention to designing a V/STOL aircraft that would use the engine. Without government/military customer support, they produced a single-engine attack-reconnaissance design that was as simple a V/STOL aircraft as could be devised. Other than the engine’s swivelling nozzles, the reaction control system was the only complication in the effort to provide V/STOL capability.

The initial P.1127 was rolled out in the summer of 1960, by which time RAF interest in the aircraft had finally resulted in funding by the British Government for the two prototypes. First hovers in the fall were made with a severely stripped airplane. This was due to the fact that the first Pegasus engines were cleared for flight at just over 11,000 pounds thrust.

With potential NATO and other foreign interest in the P.1127, four additional airplanes were ordered to continue development.

As the project proceeded into the early sixties international interest in V/STOL tactical aircraft led to an agreement to conduct a tripartite operation, with the United Kingdom, West Germany and the United States sharing equally in development and evaluation. Nine P.1127s were ordered and designated Kestrel F.G.A. 1s in the RAF name system. A number of major configuration changes were incorporated in it although the basic concept remained unchanged. Within the United States it was a tri-service venture (Army, Navy, Air Force) with the Army functioning as the lead service. However, the final interservice agreement later transferred responsibility for this category of aircraft to the Air Force.

Following completion of the operational evaluation in the United Kingdom, six of the Kestrels were shipped to the United States in 1966, designated XV-6As. Here they underwent national trials, including shipboard tests. Two subsequently served in a research role with NASA.

In the end, the Army bowed out and kept the OV-1 Mohawk in service for a generation–augmented by the new AH-1 Cobra for close air support. The Air Force walked away and would go on to develop the A-10 Warthog. The Navy let the Marines go ahead– with the prospect of using Harriers in a sea control role if needed. 

Four of the six American XV-6As are preserved in the states while a fifth was sent back “home” to be preserved in England.

XS694 (NASA 520) XS689 (NASA 521)