By Roger Chesneau

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Just below the Harriers front nozzle can be seen one of the Harrier's blade antennas. (Author) (Below Right) The AV-8A is equipped with a weighton-wheels armaments lock that prevents the guns from being accidentally fired when the aircraft is on the ground. (Author) (Below) The outrigger landing gear have telescopic oleo struts whose lowering and retraction is accomplished by hydraulic jacks with mechanical locks. These outriggers provide an unparalleled degree of stability. This is especially important to the Harrier given its mission of operating from unimproved ground.

Under the designation AV-8C and beginning in 1979, the first machine to be retrofitted with the enlarged strakes and retractable air dam was BuNo 158384, the very first production AV-8A. Modified AV-8Cs are now undergoing flight trials at NAS Patuxent River and are expected to be phased into squadron service beginning in late 1982 or early 1983. Besides LIDs, radar warning antennas were installed in the wing tips and tail cone and chaff/flare dispensers were added to the rear fuselage. In addition, the capability to equip with triple ejector racks, a new oxygen generating sytem and a new communications system are all part of the AV-8C update.

However, the Labour government's cancellation of the 50,000 ton CVA-01 fleet carrier, the 'unacceptable cost' of refitting HMS Eagle for Phantom II operations, and the widening role for shore based maritime aircraft, all created a need for a V/STOL aircraft to operate alongside the helicopter force. The decision was made to reduce the range and capability of the Royal Navy aircraft carrier forces and bring it more in line with Britain's role in NATO. The conventional carriers already in inventory were to be operated until the expiration of their hull life and then be replaced by the new Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Cruisers.

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McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk by Roger Chesneau
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