The UK's Joint Force Harrier has conducted the last operations with its Harrier GR9 ground-attack aircraft from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier, with the organisation expected to end all flying activities within weeks.

Two GR9s each from the Royal Air Force's 1 Sqn and the navy's 800 NAS (below) took off from the ramp of the HMS Ark Royal for the last time on 24 November, around 75km (40nm) off the coast of Newcastle. The vessel is also to be decommissioned, along with the Harriers, as a result of the UK's Strategic Defence and Security Review.

 Harrier GR9 800 - Royal Navy
© LA (Phot) Abbie Gadd/Royal Navy

The last take-off was conducted using a 1 Sqn aircraft piloted by RN Lt Cdr James Blackmore.

1 Sqn Harrier GR9 - Royal Navy 

Harrier GR9 ramp - Royal Navy

Both images © Petty Officer Airman Ray Jones/Royal Navy

After performing flypasts of the ship, the aircraft participated in a fighter exercise with a Westland Sea King 7 airborne surveillance and control helicopter from 849 NAS before returning to RAF Cottesmore in Rutland.

 Harrier GR9 pass - Royal Navy
© Petty Officer Airman Ray Jones/Royal Navy

The last operational flights with UK Harriers are expected to be performed from Cottesmore in mid-December, although the type is officially due to leave service by 31 March 2011.

The UK expects to reinstate its Carrier Strike capability from around 2020, using one Future Aircraft Carrier and Lockheed Martin's F-35C combat aircraft.

Source: Flight International