McDonnell Douglas / Boeing / BAe Systems AV-8B Harrier II V/STOL Strike Aircraft
The AV-8B Harrier II became a vastly improved and highly developed form of the original Harrier family line.
Authored By Dan Alex; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
While the original Hawker Siddeley Harrier proved revolutionary for its time, and the follow-up BAe Systems Sea Harrier bettered the type's original design with the inclusion of radar and improvements in out-of-the-cockpit visibility, vertical control and armament, the aircraft still maintained an origin firmly entrenched in the 1960s. By the middle of the 1970s, it became clear that the aircraft had all but met its potential and limitations were apparent - particularly in range, avionics and payload capacity. What essentially began and ended as a joint venture between British and American aeronautic firms (the British bailed early, then rejoined later on) produced the ultimate Harrier form in the "AV-8B Harrier II". The AV-8B (and under its British designation as the Harrier GR) saw combat action in Iraq, over Kosovo and now over Afghanistan and continues to be the Harrier version of choice for the USMC and RAF/RN.
Breakdown of the Harrier Family Tree
The Harrier family line consists of four major versions composed of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the British Aerospace (BAe) Sea Harrier, the Boeing/BAe AV-8B Harrier II and the BAe Systems/Boeing Harrier II. Confusing at first, each model does differentiate from the other in some distinct way. The initial production model and beginning of the Harrier lineage was the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. The Sea Harrier (as the name implies) became the dedicated navalized version of the base Harrier and utilized for air-defense as a primary role and ground strike as secondary. The Sea Harrier also made use of the powerful Blue Fox radar and was a direct development of the land-based RAF Harrier GR.3. The Boeing/BAe AV-8B Harrier II became a "second generation" Harrier and is a highly-modified version of the original Harrier for use by the USMC while the BAe Harrier II is a British-modified strike version of the USMC Harrier II.
Hawker Aircraft Limited was absorbed by Hawker Siddeley Group in the late 1950s and became British Aerospace (BAe) in 1977. British Aerospace became BAe Systems in 1999 after its purchase of Marconi Electronic Systems.
This article covers the second generation McDonnell Douglas Corporation (MDC) / BAe Systems AV-8B and Harrier GR types. Other models are reviewed elsewhere on this site under their respective manufacturers.