AV-8B Harrier Fighter Jet

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) AV-8B Harrier II is a family of second-generation vertical/short takeoff and landing or V/STOL ground-attack aircraft of the late 20th century.

An American-British development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and Sea Harrier, it is primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, and is typically operated from small aircraft carriers, large amphibious assault ships and austere forward operating bases.

The mission of the VMA STOVL squadron is to attack and destroy surface and air targets, to escort helicopters, and to conduct other such air operations as may be directed.

  Related Aircraft:
Chinese J15, Chinese J20,
F-35 JSF, F/A-18, F-22
The Harrier, informally referred to as the Jump Jet, is a family of British-designed military jet aircraft capable of Vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) via thrust vectoring. The Harrier family is the only truly successful design of this type from the many that arose in the 1960s.

Specific tasks of the AV-8B HARRIER II include:
- Conduct close air support using conventional and specific weapons.
- Conduct deep air support, to include armed reconnaissance and air interdiction, using conventional and specific weapons.
- Conduct offensive and defensive antiair warfare. This includes combat air patrol, armed escort missions, and offensive missions against enemy ground-to-air defenses, all within the capabilities of the aircraft.
- Be able to operate and deliver ordnance at night and to operate under instrument flight conditions.
- Be able to deploy for extended operations employing aerial refueling.
- Be able to deploy to and operate from carriers and other suitable seagoing platforms, advanced bases, expeditionary airfields, and remote tactical landing sites.


The AV-8B V/STOL strike aircraft was designed to replace the AV-8A and the A-4M light attack aircraft. The Marine Corps requirement for a V/STOL light attack force has been well documented since the late 1950's. Combining tactical mobility, responsiveness, reduced operating cost and basing flexibility, both afloat and ashore, V/STOL aircraft are particularly well-suited to the special combat and expeditionary requirements of the Marine Corps. The AV-8BII+ features the APG-65 Radar common to the F/A-18, as well as all previous systems and features common to the AV-8BII.

Inventory: 7 squadrons with 16 aircraft each and 1 training squadron.

Background: Operation Desert Storm in 1991 was highlighted by expeditionary air operations performed by the AV-8B. The Harrier II was the first Marine Corps tactical strike platform to arrive in theater, and subsequently operated from various basing postures. Three squadrons, totaling 60 aircraft, and one six-aircraft detachment operated ashore from an expeditionary airfield, while one squadron of 20 aircraft operated from a sea platform. During the ground war, AV-8Bs were based as close as 35 nautical miles (40.22 miles) from the Kuwait border, making them the most forward deployed tactical strike aircraft in theater. The AV-8B flew 3,380 sorties for a total of 4,083 flight hours while maintaining a mission capable rate in excess of 90%. Average turnaround time during the ground war surge rate flight operations was 23 minutes.

Armament: MK-82 series 500lbs bombs, MK-83 series 1000lbs bombs, GBU-12 500lbs laser guided bombs, GBU-16 1000lbs laser guided bombs, AGM-65F IR Maverick missiles, AGM-65E Laser Maverick missiles, CBU-99 cluster munitions, AIM-9M sidewinders, Lightening II targeting POD to deliver GBU-12 and GBU-16 bombs with pinpoint accuracy.

The General Dynamics GAU-12/U Equalizer is a five-barrel 25 mm Gatling gun-style rotary cannon. The GAU-12/U is used by the United States, Italy and Spain, which mount the weapon in their fighter jets such as the AV-8B Harrier II, airborne gunships such as the Lockheed AC-130, and land-based fighting vehicles.

The Harrier today is one of the truly unique and most widely known of military aircraft. It is unique as the only fixed wing V/STOL aircraft in the western world. It also is unusual in the international nature of its development, which brought the design from the first British P.1127 prototype to the AV-8B Harrier II of today.

When the Harrier II was first flown in the fall of 1981, 21 years had elapsed since the original Hawker P.1127 first hovered in untethered flight. This basic design, only one of many promising concepts of the time, has weathered its growing up period and reached maturity in the AV-8B.

The 1957 design for the P.1127 was based on a French engine concept, adopted and improved upon by the British. The project was funded by the British Bristol Engine Co. and by the U.S. Government through the Mutual Weapons Development Program. With the basic configuration of the engine largely determined and with development work under way, Hawker Aircraft Ltd. engineers directed their attention to designing a V/STOL aircraft that would use the engine. Without government/military customer support, they produced a single-engine attack-reconnaissance design that was as simple a V/STOL aircraft as could be devised. Other than the engine's swivelling nozzles, the reaction control system was the only complication in the effort to provide V/STOL capability.

The initial P.1127 was rolled out in the summer of 1960, by which time RAF interest in the aircraft had finally resulted in funding by the British Government for the two prototypes. First hovers in the fall were made with a severely stripped airplane. This was due to the fact that the first Pegasus engines were cleared for flight at just over 11,000 pounds thrust.

With potential NATO and other foreign interest in the P.1127, four additional airplanes were ordered to continue development. As the project proceeded into the early sixties international interest in V/STOL tactical aircraft led to an agreement to conduct a tripartite operation, with the United Kingdom, West Germany and the United States sharing equally in development and evaluation. Nine P.1127s were ordered and designated Kestrel F.G.A. 1s in the RAF name system. A number of major configuration changes were incorporated in it although the basic concept remained unchanged. Within the United States it was a tri-service venture (Army, Navy, Air Force) with the Army functioning as the lead service. However, the final interservice agreement later transferred responsibility for this category of aircraft to the Air Force.

Following completion of the operational evaluation in the United Kingdom, six of the Kestrels were shipped to the United States in 1966, designated XV-6As. There they underwent national trials, including shipboard tests. Two subsequently served in a research role with NASA. While the Kestrel operation trials were being completed and the six aircraft were headed for the United States, the RAF ordered an updated version, the P.1127 (RAF), subsequently given the designation Harrier GR 1. Retaining its basic concept, Hawker-Siddley extensively redesigned the P.1127 for production.

Before it entered RAF service, the U.S. Marine Corps evinced a major interest in the Harrier for attack missions, and procurement of Marine AV-8As was initiated. The Harrier entered service with the RAF and the U.S. Marines in the early seventies. It was followed in both services by a limited number of two-place trainer versions, designated TAV-8As for the Marines.

Both Hawker-Siddley in the United Kingdom and McDonnell Douglas Aircraft in the United States who had become the American associate contractor, could see ways to improve the Harrier. In 1973, a joint advanced Harrier program was undertaken but the costs of both airplane and Rolls-Royce engine development led to abandonment of the proposed AV-16A advanced Harrier. Building on the technical accomplishments of the joint program, McDonnell evolved a revised design configuration, incorporating a composite structure wing, which promised most of the AV-16's capabilities without a new Pegasus development. Following full-scale wind-tunnel tests and flight and structural test confirmation with two YAV-8B prototypes, the AV-8B is now in full scale production as the Harrier II. The first AV-8B squadron stood up in 1985.

Upgrading of the AV-8A with some of the systems improvements of the AV-8B resulted in the AV-8C configuration. Two test aircraft were reconfigured for evaluation and a limited AV-8C conversion program was undertaken.

An ongoing remanufacture program for selected Harriers in the inventory will provide new engines and radar, a Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR), moving map and night vision goggles. These improvements will give the Harrier a day and night attack capability, and will extend the service life as well as greatly improving warfighting capability.

The AV-8B Harrier II is used by the military forces of three nations. The United States Marine Corps has operated the AV-8B and TAV-8B since 1985. The Spanish Naval air wing (Arma Aérea De La Armada) operates the AV-8B and AV-8B+, as well as a leased TAV-8B. The Italian Navy air wing (Aviazione di Marina Militare) also uses the AV-8B+ and TAV-8B. See BAE Harrier II for British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy usage.

AV-8B Harrier II Plus Radar Aircraft

The Radar Aircraft, also known as the Harrier II Plus, was introduced in July 1993 as the newest production AV-8B, achieving Initial Operating Capability in August 1997.

The current Radar/Night Attack Harrier, or Harrier II+, has all the improvements of the Night Attack aircraft plus the AN/APG-65 multi-mode radar. The fusion of night and radar capabilities allows the Harrier to be responsive to the MAGTF's needs for expeditionary, night and adverse weather, offensive air support. The AN/APG-65(V)2 tactical airborne radar system is based on existing specifications for F/A-18 Aircraft; it provides the AV-8B multi-target tracking capability and the ability to perform air-to-air and air-to surface weapons delivery in conditions of marginal visibility, day or night.


In the Radar Aircraft, the AN/APG-65(V)2 Radar System is based on the existing specifications for F/A-18 Aircraft, but tailored for AV-8B missions. Current AV-8B specifications for the radar include a downsized antenna, two modified Shop Replaceable Assemblies (SRA), and commonality with existing items to the maximum extent without compromising performance or mission reliability. The radar modes originally developed in the F/A-18 AN/APG-65(V)2 Radar System were retained, and provide the Radar Aircraft, in conjunction with the Radar Aircraft's night-attack systems, extended tracking capabilities to perform air-to-air and air-to-surface operations in marginal visibility conditions, day or night. The AN/APG-65(V)2 Radar is a tactical airborne radar system developed by Hughes, Inc.


To remain responsive to fleet needs, older Day Attack AV-8Bs are being remanufactured to the Radar/Night Attack Harrier II+ standard. Plans called for 72 Harriers to undergo remanufacture through FY 2001, reusing major assemblies and components of the Day Attack aircraft in combination with new production structure, systems, and engines. In addition, the Marine Corps was considering remanufacture of an additional 24 aircraft, to be completed by 2003.

The ongoing "remanufacture" program, in which 72 Day Attack aircraft from the existing inventory are being rebuilt to the Radar/ Night Attack standard, extends the service life of these Harrier aircraft into the new century, and greatly improves their warfighting capabilities. Existing Harriers are also being upgraded through the use of commerical off-the-shelf (COTS) technology. The Open Systems-Common Architecture program will replace the existing Harrier mission computer with a COTS system that is affordable and easily upgraded and maintained.

The Marine Corps will create a new land-based unit in the Middle East during fiscal 2015, designed to respond to crises in the region, including emergencies at embassies, the Marine Corps Times reported Thursday.

“The [Marine Corps] intends to source and deploy SPMAGTF-CENT, which consists of a command element, ground combat element, aviation combat element and logistics combat element providing CENTCOM with a flexible, self-deploying and self-sustaining option for responding to these emergent threats,” Kloppel said.The unit will be equipped with several fixed-wing and tiltrotor aircraft, a potent combination that creates “an extremely agile crisis response force,” he said. That will, at various times, include attack aircraft like AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets, as well as support aircraft like the MV-22 Osprey and KC-130J Super Hercules, he told the Times.

External Dimensions:
Wing Span 9.25 m
Length overall (flying attitude)
AV-8B 5.58 m
TAV-8B 15.32 m
GR. Mks 5/7 14.36 m
T. Mk 10 15.79 m
Height overall 3.55 m
Tailplane span 4.24 m
Outrigger wheel track 5.18 m
Wings, excl LERX, gross 21.37 m2
LERX (total): Pegasus 11-21 0.81 m2
Pegasus 11-61 1.24 m2
100 percent 1.39 m2
Ailerons (total) 1.15 m2
Trailing-edge flaps (total) 2.88 m2
Ventral fixed strakes (total) 0.51 m2
Ventral retractable fence (LIDs) 0.24 m2
Ventral airbrake 0.42 m2
Fin 2.47 m2
Rudder, excl tab 0.49 m2
Tailplane 4.51 m2

Weights and Loadings (Single-Seaters, Except Where Indicated)
Operating weight empty (including pilot and used fuel)
AV-8B 6,336 kg
GR. Mk 7 7,050 kg
TAV-8B 6,451kg
Maximum fuel
Internal only 3,519 kg
Internal and external 7,180 kg
Maximum external stores
Pegasus 11-61 6,003 kg
Pegasus 11-21/Mk 105* 4,899 kg
Maximum useful load (include fuel, stores, weapons, ammunition and water injection for engine)
Vertical takeoff Approximately 3,062, kg
STO More than 7,710 kg
Basic flight design gross weight for 7g operation 10,410 kg
Maximum T-O weight
435 meters STO 14,061 kg
AV-8B/Pegasus 11-61 9,342 kg
GR. Mk 7 8,700 kg
S/L VTO, 32°C 8,142 kg
Design maximum landing weight 11,340 kg
Maximum vertical landing weight 9,043 kg 205 kg less in TAV-8B
Maximum mach number in level flight
At S/L 875 knots
At altitude 0.98
STOL takeoff run at maximum takeoff weight:
ISA 435 m
At 32° c 518 m
Operational radius with external loads shown:
Short takeoff (366 m, 12 Mk 82 Snakeye Bombs, internal fuel, 1 hour loiter) 90 nautical miles
Hi-lo-hi, short take off (366 m, seven Mk 82 Snakeye Bombs, two 300 US gallon external fuel tanks no loiter 594 nautical miles
Deck launch intercept mission,
two AIM-9 missiles and two external fuel tanks 627 nautical miles
Unrefueled ferry range
Tanks dropped 1,965 nautical miles
Tanks retained 1,638 nautical miles
Combat air patrol endurance at 100 nautical miles from base. 3 hr.
"G" force limits +8/-3



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