The original Hawker Siddeley "Harrier" - the so-called "Jump Jet" - was certainly a technological marvel of the Cold War (1947-1991) period as military Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) fixed wing aircraft went. The fighter-bomber was given an inherent capability to take flight and land as a helicopter yet retain the straight-line performance of a true jet-powered fighter. The aircraft was taken into service by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy (via the "Sea Harrier") services as well as the United States Marine Corps (USMC), which knew it as the "AV-8A". For their part, the Americans took on a stock of some 110 A-models and a license agreement between Britain and the American aero-concern of McDonnell Douglas was established in the process.
Total production of the series ended after 278 examples manufactured from 1967 until the 1970s.
Despite the aircraft's unique traits, the early-form Harriers were limited by two key factors - warload and operational range. This led to an eventual collaboration between the United States and Great Britain to develop a more capable subsonic VTOL tactical attacker - to be known as the "Advanced Harrier". Work on the type was green-lighted in 1973.
To improve upon all aspects of the aircraft, the Rolls-Royce "Pegasus 15" engine was selected to provide both the lift power needed for VTOL flight and the straight-line propulsion power required. The engine was rated for up to 24,500lb of thrust output and was to keep the airframe in the transonic flight envelope.
Using the original Harrier's overall appearance and layout as the starting point, engineers from both sides went to work - the resulting design being dimensionally wider at the fuselage to make room for the larger-diameter engine fit. This, in turn, necessitated enlargement of the D-shaped air intakes straddling the sides of the fuselage while reinforced lift nozzles would complete the revised section. In order to increase ordnance-carrying capabilities, as well as improve flight dynamics with the new engine, a longer wing mainplane of greater surface area was designed - each member to have three hardpoints each. The wings retained their downward angle as in the original Harrier and continued to showcase retractable outboard support legs for ground-running, working in conjunction with a tandem nose leg / single main leg undercarriage arrangement. All components involved in the undercarriage would be reinforced to contend with the expected operational weight gains. The basic wing design would also be further available in distinct forms, interchangeable by design and each type fitted by each customer as desired.
The pilot's position in the cockpit was raised some to provide for better all-round vision and, ahead of this position, was the radar-housing nosecone assembly. Rounding out the lengthy list of changes would be an all-new avionics fit designed to enhance the tactical-level attack mission for the new aircraft.
All told, the aircraft was to be more powerful, better performing, and carry a more formidable warload into battle. Beyond the six underwing hardpoints was a single fuselage mounting. A single 30mm ADEN internal automatic cannon would be featured in British models at production time while the USMC version would be cleared to carry and fire the latest-generation Air-to-Air (A2A) and Air-to-Ground (A2G) missiles including "Sidewinder" and "Maverick", respectively.
With the project designation of "AV-16", the design was to be eventually advanced under the developmental "YAV-16A" used to cover flyable prototype forms, this then giving way to the operational-quality "AV-16A" airframes to follow. Hawker Siddeley knew the project as "HS.1185". The USMC was in the market to acquire a total fleet of 342 AV-16 attackers and a first-flight of the new machine was planned for the early part of 1977 by McDonnell Douglas, leading to service entry before the end of 1979. However, all things changed when the British, with their reduced defense budget heading into uncertain economic times, removed themselves from the project in March of 1975. Without foreign support, the USMC could not justify the cost of their new VTOL attacker and the program eventually died before it gained too much traction.
The Harrier was then advanced along the lines of the American-directed AV-8B by McDonnell Douglas. First-flown in November 1978 as the YAV-8B, the enhanced attacker entered service in January of 1985 and continues to be operated by the USMC today (2020). 337 B-models were produced from 1981 until 2003. For the British, the requirement was fulfilled by the derivative "Harrier II" of 1985 which, in turn, produced the GR.5, GR.7, and GR.9 operational marks for service. The Harrier II saw its first flight during April of 1985 and a total of 143 of these were produced and operated into March 2011 exclusively by the RAF and Royal Navy services. The USMC AV-8B was taken into service by the navies of Italy and Spain.
As designed, the AV-16 was to feature a running length of 46.5 feet with a wingspan of 30.3 feet. Gross weight reached 28,000lb while VTOL capability would be limited to 21,000lb. With its Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine, the aircraft was expected to reach speeds of 720 miles-per-hour though operational range and operating altitude estimates were not given. Range was to be enhanced by way of fuel drop tanks as necessary.
[ 0 Units ] : McDonnell Douglas - USA / Hawker Siddeley - UK
United Kingdom (planned, cancelled); United States (planned, cancelled)
OPTIONAL (RAF and USMC):
Up to seven external hardpoints (three to each wing) for the carrying of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles as well as precision-guided bombs, conventional drop bombs, rocket pods, and jettisonable fuel tanks.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the McDonnell Douglas AV-16A production model)
AV-16 "Advanced Harrier" - Base Series Name.
YAV-16A - Proposed developmental prototypes.
AV-16A - Proposed in-service designation.
HS.1185 - Hawker Siddeley program designation.
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