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AV-8B Harrier II
An AV-8B+ Harrier II Plus on the assault ship USS Nassau
Role V/STOL ground-attack aircraft
Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas / British Aerospace
Boeing / BAE Systems
First flight 9 November 1978 (YAV-8B)
Introduction 12 January 1985 (AV-8B)
Status Active
Primary users United States Marine Corps
Spanish Navy
Italian Navy
Produced AV-8B/B+: 1981-2003[1]
Unit cost US$30-35 million in 1997 (AV-8B+)[2]
Developed from Hawker Siddeley Harrier
BAE Sea Harrier
Variants BAE Harrier II

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. It is an Anglo-American development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and Sea Harrier. It is primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, typically operated from small aircraft carriers and large amphibious assault ships.

Although the AV-8B Harrier II shares the designation with the earlier AV-8A/C Harrier, the AV-8B was extensively redesigned from the previous-generation Harrier GR.1A/AV-8A/C by McDonnell Douglas. British Aerospace joined the improved Harrier project in the early 1980s, and it has been managed by Boeing/BAE Systems since the 1990s.

The AV-8B is used by the United States Marine Corps. The British Harrier GR7/GR9 versions are used by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Versions are also used by NATO countries: Spain, and Italy. The Harrier models are commonly referred to as the "Harrier Jump Jet".




Advanced Harrier

Bristol tested an improved version of Pegasus engine, named Pegasus 15 during the early 1970s. The engine was more powerful and had a larger diameter. The larger diameter meant it could not readily fit in the Harrier. During this time a joint US/UK team completed a document defining an Advanced Harrier with the Pegasus 15 engine in December 1973. The Advanced Harrier was intended to replace original UK and US Harriers and US A-4s. It would also be operated by the Royal Navy from command ships. The Advanced Harrier was unofficially named "AV-16" with the purpose to double the AV-8's payload/range capability. The UK pulled out of the project in early 1975 due to decreased defense funding. The US was unwilling to fund development by itself and ended the project later that year.[3]

Harrier II

The Harrier II is notable as an example of US-UK cooperation and of Cold War defense achievements. Of note is the U.S aid funding early development of the Hawker P.1127 under the Mutual Weapons Development Program (MWDP), and the salvaging of what was left of the AV-16 Advanced Harrier Program by McDonnell Douglas, making the second-generation family possible.

McDonnell Douglas had restarted its own program which was nearing production status when British Aerospace (BAe) rejoined the program in the 1980s. They then jointly produced the aircraft. By the 1990s McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, and BAe was merged into BAE Systems who went on to manage the family into the early 21st century.

A YAV-8B Harrier II tests a ski jump at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

The AV-8B had its direct origins in a joint British-U.S. project (Hawker-Siddeley and McDonnell Douglas) for a much-improved Harrier aircraft, the AV-16. However cost over-runs in engine development on the part of Rolls-Royce and in the aircraft development caused the British to pull out of the program.

Interest remained in the U.S., so a less ambitious, though still expensive project was undertaken by McDonnell on their own catered to U.S. needs. Using knowledge gleaned from AV-16 development, though dropping some items such as further Pegasus development, the development work continued leading to the AV-8B for the U.S. Marine Corps. The aircraft was centered on the Marines' need for a light ground attack aircraft and focused on payload and range, instead of speed. In the early 1980s, the British rejoined the program and developed their own second generation Harrier from the U.S. design.

The first two YAV-8B prototypes were converted from existing AV-8A airframes.

Aircraft were built by McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace (later BAE Systems), the latter at their Kingston and Dunsfold facilities in Surrey, in the UK. Between 1969 and 2003, 824 Harrier variants were delivered. While manufacture of new Harriers concluded in 1997, the last remanufactured aircraft (Harrier II Plus configuration) was delivered in December 2003 which ended the Harrier production line.[4]


An AV-8B from VMA-231 at Oshkosh 2003.
An AV-8B Harrier II landing aboard the USS Bataan.

The AV-8B Harrier II is a subsonic attack aircraft.[5] It features a single Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine with two intakes and four vectorable nozzles. It has two landing gear on the fuselage and two outrigger landing gear on the wings. The AV-8B is equipped with six wing and three fuselage hardpoints for carrying a 25 mm GAU-12 cannon, other weapons and external fuel tanks.[6]

The first AV-8B Harrier IIs produced were commonly known as the "Day Attack" variant, and are no longer in service. Most were upgraded to Night Attack Harrier or Harrier II Plus standards, with the remainder being withdrawn from service.

The AV-8B cockpit was also used for the early trialling of Direct Voice Input (DVI) using a system developed by Smiths Aerospace.[7] The main attack avionics system is the Hughes nose-mounted AN/ASB-19.[8]

Fielded in 1991, the Night Attack Harrier incorporated a Navigation Forward Looking Infrared camera (NAVFLIR). The cockpit was also upgraded, including compatibility with night vision goggles. Concurrent with the new version of the aircraft was introduced a more powerful Rolls Royce Pegasus II engine. It was originally intended to be designated AV-8D.[9]

The Harrier II Plus is very similar to the Night Attack variant, with the addition of an APG-65 radar in an extended nose, making it capable of operating advanced beyond-visual-range missiles such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM.[10] The radars were removed from early F/A-18 Hornets, which had been upgraded with the related APG-73. The Harrier II Plus is in service with the USMC, Spanish Navy, and Italian Navy.

Operational history

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 Aerea 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.


A US Marine Corps TAV-8B Harrier II.
An AV-8B Harrier II Plus from the Spanish aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias (R11) prepares to land.
An Italian TAV-8B Harrier II aboard Giuseppe Garibaldi (551).
Two prototypes converted in 1978 from existing AV-8A airframes (BuNo 158394, 158395).
AV-8B Harrier II 
"Day Attack" variant; no longer in service. Most were upgraded to one of the following two variants, while the remainder were withdrawn from service. 4 full scale development (FSD) aircraft were built in 1982, follwed by 162 production aircraft, built 1983-1989.
AV-8B Harrier II Night Attack 
Fielded in 1991; incorporates a Navigation Forward Looking Infrared camera (NAVFLIR). Upgraded cockpit, including compatibility with night vision goggles. More powerful Rolls Royce Pegasus 11 engine. 1 prototype converted from AV-8B (BuNo 163853), 72 new aircraft were produced 1989 to 1993. This variant was originally designated AV-8D.
AV-8B Harrier II Plus 
Similar to the Night Attack variant, with the addition of an APG-65 radar. It is used by the USMC, Spanish Navy, and Italian Navy. 72 were converted from existing AV-8B (receiving new BuNos), 43 were new built from 1993 to 1997.
TAV-8B Harrier II
Two-seat trainer version. 23 were built between 1986 and 1992.
TAV-8B Harrier II+
Two two-seat trainer aircraft built for Italy 1990 to 1991.
EAV-8B Matador II
Company designation for the Spanish Navy version. 12 were built 1987 to 1988.
EAV-8B Matador II+
AV-8B Harrier II+ for Spanish Navy, 11 were converted from EAV-8B, 8 were new built 1995 to 1997.

See BAE Harrier II for the UK military version.


  • Italian Navy has 15 AV-8B aircraft in service as of January 2010.[11]
    • Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati "The Wolves"
  • Spanish Navy has 13 AV-8B+ aircraft in use as of January 2010.[11]
    • 09th Squadron
 United States

Specifications (AV-8B+ Harrier II Plus)

Orthographic projection of the AV-8B Harrier II.
AV-8 Harrier II being refueled by a KC-10 Extender.

Data from Norden,[12] Aerospaceweb[13]

General characteristics




Popular culture

The Harrier's unique characteristics have led to it being featured in a number of films and video games.

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists



  1. ^ Norden 2006, Appendix A.
  2. ^ Military aircraft prices
  3. ^ Jenkins 1998, pp. 69–70.
  4. ^ Harrier Projects.
  5. ^ Jenkins 1998, pp. 69-74.
  6. ^ Spick and Gunston 2000, pp. 366–370, 387-409.
  7. ^ Adams, Charlotte (14 December 1997). "Voice-recognition technology: Waiting to exhale". Federal Computer Week (1105 Media, Inc). Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  9. ^ Donald, David; Daniel J. March (2004). Modern Battlefield Warplanes. Norwalk, Connecticut: AIRtime Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 1-880588-76-5. 
  10. ^ Harrier II Plus (AV-8B) VSTOL Fighter and Attack Aircraft, USA.
  11. ^ a b c "World Military Aircraft Inventory". 2010 Aerospace Source Book. Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 2010.
  12. ^ Norden 2006, Appendix C.
  13. ^ "McDonnell Douglas/British Aerospace AV-8B Harrier II Attack Fighter". Aircraft Museum. 2006-04-01. Retrieved 2006-10-29. 


  • Jenkins, Dennis R. Boeing / BAe Harrier. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 1998. ISBN 1-58007-014-0.
  • Nordeen, Lon O. Harrier II, Validating V/STOL. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2006. ISBN 1-59114-536-8.

External links


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