The UK Ministry of Defence is investigating the cause of an accident in which the pilot of a BAE Systems Harrier GR9A was forced to eject from the aircraft while attempting to land at Afghanistan's Kandahdar airfield on 14 May.
The MoD confirms that the aircraft's pilot sustained minor injuries in the incident, which occurred during an emergency landing at the coalition base. A full assessment of the damaged Harrier has yet to be completed, but an MoD official confirms: "There is no evidence of any enemy action".
Drawn from the combined Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Joint Force Harrier (JFH) organisation, the UK's GR7/9 force has sustained a five-year commitment in Afghanistan. The aircraft are used to support the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, providing vital close air support for ground personnel from Kandahar.
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Scheduled to be replaced in theatre by RAF Panavia Tornado GR4s, the current JFH deployment involves air force and navy personnel assigned to the RAF's 1 Sqn, home-based at Cottesmore in Rutland. The Harrier force had been expected to complete its combat commitment in Afghanistan in late April, but delays to the completion of base infrastructure work and ongoing upgrades to the Tornado have seen this extended until around mid-year, the RAF says.
The 14 May crash represents the first serious accident encountered by JFH during its deployment. Two parked Harrier GR7s were also damaged during a Taliban mortar attack early in the detachment.