The McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II which is now under the name of Boeing is the single-engine powered light ground attack jet fighter serving the US Marine Corps. The AV-8B Harrier II is a part of the Harrier Jump Jet’s 2nd generation family of aircraft which is able to perform V/STOL (Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing).
The aircraft was designed back in 1970 as the US’s first project in comparison to the British made Hawker Siddeley Harrier which was the first of the V/STOL aircraft. The AV-8B Harrier II is used for light attack role missions which are to provide the close air support to friendly ground troops as well as for armed reconnaissance.
At the moment the preprimary operator of this aircraft is United States Marine Corps but other than them it is being exported to other countries and is used by the Spanish Navy and Italian Navy.
UK designed and manufactured the Aerospace Harrier II, which is the variant of original AV-8B Harrier II. This aircraft has been given designation TAV-8B, which is a two-seat trainer aircraft.
The project for the AV-8B Harrier II only came into being after a joint designing and manufacturing project started between the US and UK back in the early 70s. In 1975, the UK pulled back from this project after having budget problems. After the UK pulling out McDonnell Douglas took over the project and redesigned the earlier model to give it a new wing, fuselage section, extra hardpoint on each wing, elevated cockpit and many aerodynamically modifications. The UK once again joined the project back in 1981 and later McDonnell Douglas which became Boeing started a joint project alongside BAE Systems to create 340 of these AV-8B Harrier IIs for a 22 years-long project that will end in 2030.
For our readers, we have gathered a few of the interesting facts about the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II; the light attack aircraft.
One of a kind Airframe
The title for being the first-ever jet fighter of the US Navy and the US Marine Corps with the capability of V/STOL goes to none other than AV-8B Harrier II. The aircraft has served the US Navy from aboard not only the broad aircraft carriers but also from aboard the fairly large assault vessels and from the forward operating bases of US Navy and Marine Corps in rote places.
The aircraft with its state of the art V/STOL ability is able to make its landing virtually on anywhere where it is given clearance to do so and this allowed the USMC to gain many advantages over the years in their missions. The aircraft produced by the McDonnell Douglas which is now Boeing has served for many years in its earliest form and still many of its variants are continuously serving their purpose. Still there is news that USMC is planning to change their entire fleet of the AV-8B Harrier IIs to F-18C/D/Es until 2025.
Powerplant & other Specs
The most recent of the AV-8B variant is equipped with a single one of the Rolls-Royce F402-RR-408 (Mk 107) vectored-thrust turbofan engine which can produce a thrust of 23500 lb/ft, thus giving it a top speed of Mach 0.0 or 637 mph for combat radius of 1200 miles. The cost for a single one of the AV-8B is about 30 million dollars and is operable by only a single pilot. Although a variant of it has been created by UK, which is a two-seat trainer aircraft.
Although AV-8B Harrier II has served the US Navy and USMC extensively; over the years the rate of accidents for the AV-8B Harrier II has also been three times higher when compared to other aircraft. The reason is that this is the only aircraft in the arsenal of US Navy that has the V/STOL capability and this caused them to only utilize and maintain one of them until its replacement could be found.
While the US Marin Corps is making use of the AV-8B Harrier IIs and the F-18C, they are hoping to hand over their entire mission duties being carried out by these two aircraft to the 5th Generation multirole jet fighter F-35B Lighting II.
The cause for this much rate of failure is due to the engineering flaw that this aircraft is only equipped with one engine for its V/STOL ability. This causes a lot of errors mainly due to the directional nozzle which controls the thrust vector for the aircraft.
Close Air Support
The time for the AV-8B Harrier II started with US Navy and US Marine Corps with the famed Operation Desert Storm back in 1991. The aircraft was held back to take part in the first line of the aerial campaign but was still to provide close air support to the ground forces under the heavy artillery of Iraqi forces. Throughout the entire Iraqi campaign, AV-8B Harrier II flew for a total of 4100 Flight Hours. Still, like all the other fixed-wing aircraft in the US Army, the AV-8B Harrier II also suffered major losses as nearly 5 of them were shot down by the strikes of air-to-surface missiles.
Still, the close air support and the effectiveness of their strikes causes the AV-8B Harrier II to be called on many of the other US-related conflict regions. Back in 1999’s conflict of Bosnia-Herzegovina, many of the AV-8B Harrier II was deployed to support NATO forces and only 1 of them was lost.
The one thing that the AV-8B Harrier II has been credited by US Marine Corps, again and again, is its mission availability. The availability rate of the AV-8B Harrier II during the mission like Operation Desert Storm was about 90 percent and during eh 2008’s Iraqi War, the availability rate was almost 83 percent.
The AV-8B Harrier II is able to carry light ammunitions compared to the gunship AC-130 Specter but it was still able to make precision strikes even in the densely populated urban areas. The loitering ability of the AV-8B Harrier II made it a prized possession for the US Marine Corps in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Last Combat Mission
The last combat mission for the AV-8B Harrier II was for the Operation Odyssey Dawn in which many AV-8B Harrier IIs flew alongside NATO aerial assets over Libyan Airspace to force the no-fly zone.
In addition to that, AV-8B Harrier II provided a close air support in 2011 for a downed F-15E Strike Eagle before the pilot of the aircraft was evacuated by the V-22 Osprey.