Harrier fans still do it vertically

While at Hawker Siddeley, in 1977, I worked my way into the Future Projects office. I arrived just as they were submitting a proposal for Air Staff Target 403, for an advanced STOVL fighter to replace the RAF’s Harriers and Jaguars. After I joined Flight, I returned to Hawkers to interview my ex-boss. I was recognised and waved through by security, only to meet a couple of former colleagues carrying a windtunnel model of the latest secret ASTOVL design down the stairs! (It was the P.1216, for secretprojects.co.uk afficionados).

My post-Hawker honeymoon ended when I displeased Harrier chief designer John Fozard by saying the UK should join the US in developing the AV-8B Harrier II rather than pursuing the homegrown “Big Wing” Harrier. But I’m quite sure the AV-8B cemented the UK-US V/STOL relationship and paved the way for the Harrier’s eventual replacement, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

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STO-ing in the rain (US Navy photo)

Where the Harrier pioneered vectored-thrust V/STOL, the Harrier II with its carbonfibre wing could actually lift a useful payload. I found myself at McDonnell Douglas in St Louis for the AV-8B roll-out, only to hear then US Marine Corps Commandant P X Kelly forcefully declare that the “A in AV-8B means Attack, and if it’s going to say Marines on the side it had better do it properly!”. That caused a few mutters of “steady on, old chap” among the Brits in the audience.

AV-8B%20bombs.jpg

While I lament the lack of Harrier curves in the shaped-by-stealth F-35B, I am looking forward to seeing all those doors open, fans rotate and nozzles swivel. But I don’t think we’ll see a Lightning II bow to the audience after its airshow.

Harrier%20GR%20wet%20runway.jpg
(Crown Copyright)

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Tim Hall’s Harrier GR7 update of Frank Munger’s AV-8B cutaway (Flight archives)

6 Responses to Harrier fans still do it vertically

  1. Harrier Editor 8 April, 2008 at 6:46 pm #

    That P.1216 tunnel model, and others, are still knocking about. Kingston would have preferred to cement the US/UK STOVL links by developing it for the RAF/RN and selling it to Marines no doubt, judging by the private venture money they put into it.

  2. Mike Plunkett 9 April, 2008 at 6:49 pm #

    Is it just me or does the front end of the P.1216 look suspiciously like that of a Typhoon?

  3. The Woracle 9 April, 2008 at 6:58 pm #

    More F-16-inspired, I think. There was even an AST.403 contender that looked like a scaled-up F-16…

  4. Harrier Editor 10 April, 2008 at 9:25 am #

    While it’s in the same place as the F-16 for the same basic reasons, there were major differences. The F-16 had a long duct from the inlet to the engine. The P.1216 duct was fairly short as the engine was mounted in the middle, so the internal design was very different. Getting it to work at low/no (vertical) speeds, with hot gas and pressure distortion issues etc., as well as supersonically, was the reason for many of the model tests done.

  5. The Woracle 10 April, 2008 at 7:51 pm #

    The problem with direct-lift VTOL is that you have to place the engine at or near the centre of gravity – that makes the aircraft fat in the middle and pushes the inlet forward, neither of which are good for supersonic drag. Hawker struggled with it in various ASTOVL configurations and Boeing had the same issue with the X-32, with the added problem that the short inlet could not hide the engine for stealth. P.1216 at least avoided the Harrier’s problem with acoustic fatigue on the rear fuselage caused by the aft pair of nozzles.

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